The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) promotes a Housing First approach in tandem with social and mental health services for chronically homeless individuals. The DowntownDC BID contracts with Pathways to Housing DC to provide services and outreach to the downtown homeless community. The story below was written by Pathways to Housing DC:
Selena was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She grew up with two brothers and three sisters, all known for being the prettiest girls on the block. Selena had a normal childhood, but that soon began to change as the symptoms of her mental illness emerged. Despite several psychiatric hospitalizations during her adolescence, Selena’s anxiety and bipolar disorder went undiagnosed. Soon she began to self medicate her symptoms with PCP and other drugs.
Despite her mental illness and struggles with addiction, Selena managed to stop using when her children were born. However, she still struggled to maintain steady work and a stable homelife. When DC Child Protective Services became involved and took her three children, her life began to crumble again. “Losing my children was devastating. I didn’t want to give up my apartment because I was trying to get my kids back. But I couldn’t keep up with everything.” After being evicted, Selena found herself on the downtown streets. “I thought it would be safe. There’s a police presence and services and a lot of people around.” One of those people was Antwan, a member of Pathways to Housing DC’s Homeless Street Outreach Team. He met Selena while she was sleeping next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Antwan’s compassion and approachable manner made it easy for Selena to trust him. At first, Antwan helped Selena find a hot shower and a fresh set of clothes. Soon, they began meeting regularly to talk about her past and her goals, including her hope to one day reconnect with her family. Without a stable address or living situation, however, she was not permitted to visit with her children. Antwan listened and worked with Selena to get her connected to one of our Housing First support teams.
After two years on the streets, Selena is now back in her own apartment. She is beginning to rebuild a relationship with her family and she continues to work with her Pathways DC support team. She is learning healthy ways to manage the symptoms of her mental illness, like exercising and listening to music. She is even going to the library to do research and learn more about what she can do to help lessen her anxiety on her own. Selena recently shared that Dr. Cohen, one of the Pathways DC psychiatrists, “helped me to understand my mental diagnosis and what it meant. Also I love working with the peer support workers because there is always someone who understands me when I need someone to talk to.”
Congratulations Selena, and welcome home!