Opening Doors: Program Graduate Success Stories
Aimee is a mother of three children, two daughters ages 16 and 11, and a 5-year-old son, each of whom have different fathers. Her oldest child’s father has primary custody, and Aimee has visitation rights every weekend. Aimee became homeless in July 2010 after both she and her fiancé lost their jobs—and not long thereafter, their home. The family was accepted at the Loudoun County emergency shelter and immediately applied for the county’s Transitional Housing Program. While at the shelter, they were referred to INMED’s Opening Doors program.
Aimee and her fiancé (who is the father of her 11-year-old daughter) decided to get married during their time at the shelter, even knowing that they faced many challenges: employment, transportation, medical and mental health concerns, and ongoing relationship issues. The family’s first goal developed as part of their participation in the Opening Doors program was to find a job. Although Aimee was sick, with no possibility of maintaining a stable job at the time, her husband did find work as a pizza delivery driver. In the meantime, Aimee continued going to her medical appointments, discovering that she needed surgery—her 16th procedure—for early-stage cancer. First, however, Erica went through a long period of medical treatment before she was given final approval for her surgery. The family was approved for the Transitional Housing Program, but when Erica and her husband separated, he was discharged from the program, and Aimee and her two younger children started a new stage of their lives together.
Aimee received SNAP, TANF, Medicaid and child care benefits. She finished all of her medical treatments with success, and began to look for a job. She was hired for a position at a day care center, because of her previous background in the field, starting part-time, but moving to full-time just a couple months later. Inspired by her fresh start and encouraged by her future prospects, Aimee remained disciplined and organized, followed her budget, and saved more than 10% of her income in her escrow account maintained through the Transitional Housing Program. She bought a used car, making a down payment with her income tax refund and building a manageable one-year loan into her monthly budget for the balance. Aimee applied and was accepted for an income-based apartment in West Virginia, and decided to move forward. Since Aimee left the Opening Doors program, she has maintained her job and her home, and has paid her rent and utilities on time.
Christine, a mother of two boys ages 10 and 5, joined the Opening Doors program in April 2012. Christine became homeless after a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend, when she had to leave her Section 8 subsidized apartment as a result. Because of her situation, her younger son’s father was granted primary custody until she found stable housing again.
Christine moved from place to place for about six months before she made the decision to enter the county shelter. At that time, she applied to both the county’s Transitional Housing Program and the Windy Hill Apartments, an income-based community in Middleburg. She was accepted into the Transitional Housing Program, but soon learned that she was also accepted at Windy Hill. After completing all the necessary paperwork and approvals, Christine and her son moved to Windy Hill in September 2012. While still getting adjusted to her new place, the father of her younger son rapidly became very ill due to cancer, and passed away not long thereafter. Christine’s younger son immediately returned to live with her.
When Christine first entered the emergency homeless shelter, her first priority was to look for a job. After a two-week search, she found a 10-hour-per-week position at a shoe store, but continued looking for a better job offering more hours. After two months, she secured a 25- to 30-hour-per week position as a sales associate an upscale retail store, where she still continues to work. Christine’s brother had lent her a car so she could get to work, but her case manager also referred her to a vehicle donation program, and just before Christmas 2012, she received a car through Catholic Charities. Christine also receives $700 per month in Social Security benefit for her youngest son.
Now, with all of her benefits and services in place, Christine has maintained stable housing, and she reports paying her rent and utilities on time. At the last home visit before her graduation, she told her case manager that she feels that she is “ back on her feet,” and that she is very grateful for the support and coaching that she received from the Opening Doors program and the case manager.
Brenda is a single mother of six children ages 2 to 12, four from a previous marriage and two from a later relationship that ended in domestic violence, leaving her homeless. Brenda entered the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. While there, she was referred to the Opening Doors program and applied for both the county’s Transitional Housing (center-based) and Transitional Opportunities (off-site housing) programs.
When Brenda enrolled in the Opening Doors program, she was in desperate need of support, saying, “ I feel lost.” She did not have a job or a car, and she was unfamiliar with the services in the community. Brenda was accepted for the Transitional Opportunities Program in May 2011. A year later, however, recurring incidences of domestic violence with the father of her two younger children resulted in her transfer to the Transitional Housing Program for the safety of her family. In the meantime, it took a long time for Brenda to find a job because she had a fresh misdemeanor criminal record.
After four months of searching, she was hired for a 10-hour-per-week position at a dollar store. She continued her job search, and six months later secured a half-time job as a retail store cashier, making $9 per hour. After another six months, she was offered a full-time assistant manager position at $10.50 per hour. Just before Christmas 2012, Brenda’ supervisor delivered the great news that the company was offering her a manager position at another store, with a starting salary of $37,000 per year. Brenda called the promotion one of the best Christmas gifts that she had ever received. She started her new position in the first week of January 2013.
Now, as her time in the Opening Doors program and in transitional housing is nearing an end, Brenda is searching for a place to live. She has received a car through Catholic Charities’ vehicle donation program, and also receives TANF, SNAP, Medicaid and child care assistance. To date, she has not been able to obtain child support because both fathers of her children are unemployed and in unstable situations. Despite her challenges, Brenda has been a dedicated mother above all, and has done her best to keep her children in a safe environment. She feels prepared to make the move to a new home and is confident that she can maintain stable housing over the long term.