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Family Homeless Because of Neighborhood Violence

When you think of your family, is there anything you wouldn’t do to ensure their safety? Resident at our Family Shelter, Dorothy, risked everything to move her family out of a toxic neighborhood and, consequently, accepted the reality that she would be homeless.

Dorothy was living in Brooklyn, New York with her 9-year-old and 6-year-old sons. “One day I witnessed someone get shot right in front of our place with my kids. A bullet doesn’t have no name on it. I had to get us away.”

A longtime friend suggested that she move down to Virginia and stay with her. After a short period of time, the woman’s landlord said that her guests were not listed on the lease and needed to relocate. Without a place to turn, Dorothy was directed to HomeAgain.

Dorothy’s fresh start seemed far away as she realized that choosing to separate her family from her neighborhood’s violence placed them squarely in a housing crisis. “I can’t let my kids see me down. I’m always smiling,” she said.

As she stays in the Espigh Family Shelter, she is determined to find a job in the field she loves… security. Back in New York, Dorothy was a security officer for a condominium where she ensured the safety of the residents and the safety of their belongings. She lit up while describing her former duties and expressed sincere interest in going through Virginia’s training to stay in this field of work. “Things are different here to do those jobs. I am working on that… I’m a people person.”

She described her children and their interests; her 9 year-old loves Minecraft and wants to design video games one day, while her 6 year-old is completely consumed with his love of sports. She says they are both looking forward to school, something that is important to her as well.

Dorothy found out she was pregnant with her oldest son when she was still in high school. She praised her school system for having a daycare in the building so that her son was close by and supervised as she worked to receive a diploma. “Too many teens give up on life because they got pregnant. But you need to let that baby be your motivation,” she said. During her first semester attending community college for nursing, Dorothy discovered she was pregnant again.

The hardship of commuting an hour and a half to work, going to school, and carrying her second child caused her to drop out – but she was thankful to later find her calling as a security officer.

When her children are older, Dorothy dreams of returning to school, this time to study business. Ultimately, she would love to start a business and set a great example for her sons.

For now, HomeAgain’s shelter is home and Dorothy is ready to navigate the steps in securing a new home. “In New York, people in shelters get too comfortable and stay for a long time. My case manager is working with me. If they see that you are determined, they have your back,” she explained.

She went on to discuss what it’s like to have responsibilities in the shelter. “I don’t really mind the chores either, because it makes us all feel like a big family. This week I’m in charge of mopping and sweeping on the 2nd floor.”

The Family Program Manager, JoLinda Underwood, helped register her children for summer day camp so that Dorothy is free to search for jobs and take interviews during business hours.

She is certainly on her way to finding secure and stable housing for her family. When asked about homelessness and what the community needs to know about this underserved group, she said, “People need to understand: Every day is not promised. I wish I would have prepared for a rainy day.”

Dorothy added, “You can’t judge a book by its cover. You never know what [path] they took to end up without a home.”

(Dorothy asked not to be photographer for this feature.)