On one hand, Denise’s story is one of the very best we can share on how all of our housing programs work together to help someone overcome homelessness and addiction. On the other hand, it’s a story unique to Denise, a testament to her own personal determination.
Starting at the age of nine, Denise says she started to drink. She would sneak leftover drinks as she helped her parents clean up after they hosted friends for parties. As she describes it, she spent the next 50 years “drinking and drugging.”
Denise is quick to point out that she was always able to get a job. The challenge was staying sober and focused before she lost the job. Eventually, the wear and tear of such an erratic lifestyle wore her down.
“I said enough,” Denise said. “I was tired of it and I needed to get out of that environment.” So, Denise put her belongings in storage, left her apartment, and entered a rehab program. It was the start of a long journey toward sobriety, with many pitfalls along the way.
She was in and out of programs a few times, often trying to find the one that fit her best. She came first to Catholic Charities Harriet Tubman program before she was enrolled in Catholic Charities Mt. Carmel House.
Mt. Carmel House is a longer-term program that places homeless adult women in their own room within the building and then spends time helping them focus on what they need to live independently. For Denise, it was the right environment for her to maintain her sobriety and maintain a barrier between her new life and her old, more destructive one.
Today, Denise has been sober for several years. She feels free. She lives in yet another Catholic Charities housing program, called a single room occupancy program, that is considered the final step on the road to independence. She hopes to have her own place, maybe as soon as 2017.
Along the way, she experienced what is known as the “continuum of care” in housing – shelter, transitional, SRO – aimed to help a person overcome homelessness and the underlying causes, before living on their own again.
And while Denise knows she’s accomplished much, she also knows where she still wants to go and she isn’t resting or waiting.
Feeling inspired? Make a donation to all of the programs who helped Denise on her journey:
Rock Creek Church SRO (under McKenna)