Last year, Family Tree served nearly 5,000 people with direct, face-to-face services. While each one of these people’s stories is unique, there is one thing they all have in common; the story never begins and rarely ends with Family Tree.
I met Vicki and her husband Mac in December of 2011. They were both veterans of the United States Navy. And desperate to get off the streets.
Vicki and Mac enrolled in Family Tree Homelessness Program’s permanent supportive housing - a program designed to serve people experiencing chronic homelessness. Vicki and Mac had been experiencing homelessness off-and-on for 11 years. Their final episode of homelessness, prior to finding Family Tree, left them on the streets of Jefferson County for six years.
Family Tree immediately began housing search and permanent placement for them. However, after the housing market crashed, there were few rentals available and it became even more challenging for a person experiencing homelessness to obtain housing. Despite the fact that they had a permeant rental subsidy to offer a landlord, barriers such as previous rental history and evictions got in the way of them being housed. Landlords were turning them down left and right.
After 10 long months of searching for housing, Mac passed away. On the streets. Behind a dumpster. Where they had been sleeping.
While we continued to search for an apartment, we were able to advocate to allow Vicki to stay at a local church and receive respite care.
A month later, I was able to identify a new landlord willing to give Vicki chance. Vicki was able to move in immediately, finally ending her homelessness.
I worked with Vicki to address many of the reasons that led to her homelessness. Through this support, Vicki was able to obtain skills and access resources to help her become self-reliant. Even when challenges reemerged in her life, she was able to maintain her housing.
Like earlier mentioned, a person’s story rarely ends with Family Tree. Vicki stayed with us for seven years, but recently moved to Nebraska where she has found a safe, supportive community that she wants to be in. She has her own apartment, she is engaged in services, she volunteers, and she recently received her 90-day chip. She still has her struggles, and will most likely battle certain issues for the rest of her life. Those issues no longer have to mean homelessness for Vicki as she can call upon her skills and resources gained from her time in Family Tree that helped her become safe, strong and self-reliant.