I have been thinking about the dual role housing plays in the work of Roof Above. For half of the Roof Above team, housing is the finish line. For those who work in our shelters and Day Services Center, the focus is on the moment when someone signs a lease and is handed a key. One life at a time, homelessness is ended. For the other half of the Roof Above team, however, housing is the starting line. The case managers and nurses who support our housing programs are focused on what people do with their lives once their foundational needs of housing are met. I think of one remarkable woman, Micchicco.
We first met her at our Day Services Center, where her giftedness shone through despite the many traumas and challenges she was facing in her homelessness. During the pandemic, she lived in the North End Encampment, where our outreach team continued to build a relationship with her. That relationship carried through this past summer when Micchicco became one of the first tenants of SECU The Rise on Clanton, our newest supportive housing community for people with disabilities who have had long experiences of homelessness. I happened to be on site the day of her move.
The smile on her face was unforgettable – a culminating moment of many years working to find a solution to her homelessness. In reality, her move-in was just the beginning. Now the work begins for Micchicco to build upon that safety and stability of home. Micchicco knew her first goal – to become a dog owner. Micchicco has dreamed of having a little dog like the one she had when she was seven years old. She was brown and white, and she called her Tip. Now in her 40s, Micchicco still lights up when she talks about Tip: “Every time I would go to school, she would walk me to the bus stop.”
Our case manager Tanya helped Micchicco reach out to the Humane Society to get her ready for the responsibilities of having a pet. Tanya and Micchicco just completed orientation to volunteer there together. With her work underway to meet her first goal, she has now started on her second goal – finding employment so she is not solely dependent on income from her disability check. In Tanya’s words, “For so long, our tenants had to be in survival mode.
Now that they are settling into their homes, I hear them say ‘I can see things moving now. I see things coming together.’” Tanya finds her meaning in helping our tenants establish independence again, and to feel a sense of pride and purpose. Housing is just the starting line – so much more is possible.