Laura has lived on the streets for many years.
She is an unapologetic alcoholic who regularly cycles from rage to depression in less than a minute. She cannot stand shelters or being around other people for extended periods. For all of this, she is an incredibly likeable woman and dearly loved by both the staff and guests of the Women's Lunch Place. Because she sleeps out, she does not have access to housing advocates from any of the overnight shelters as do many of WLP's other guests. Like a handful of our guests, WLP is the only social-service agency that Laura will come to.
All she wants is a place of her own. She has always said that if she could find a place of her own, she knows that she could maintain it. But Laura was very particular about where she was willing to live. Finding a place where she could truly be on her own, in a neighborhood where she wanted to live, in the context of a political landscape that has not prioritized low-income housing, was an uphill battle. Laura used to sit in the office of her WLP advocate and stare at a picture on the wall of a cat out in a snowstorm. She said that she often felt like she could relate to that cat, being out in the cold all alone with no where to go.
Recently, after many years, we were able to get a mobile voucher for Laura through a special program geared towards homeless and disabled individuals. The next challenge was finding her a place. Mobile vouchers are preferred by most of our guests because they are not relegated to a potentially undesirable housing project, but lets them be responsible for finding their own apartment.
For guests like Laura with bad credit, no housing history, CORI issues, and few interpersonal skills or relationships to call on for references, convincing a private-market landlord to take a chance on you is no easy task. But through Laura's perseverance and a lot of hard work on the part of WLP advocates in collaboration with the Metropolitan Boson Housing Partnership, we were able to find Laura a place that fit all of her specifications, and with a landlord that was willing to take the chance.
Laura has been in her apartment for over a month now. She is still drinking, but has cut down drastically. She is very happy in her new place and says that she no longer needs to drink as much as she needed to numb the pain and make life bearable on the street. She is healthier and taking much better care of herself overall.
This past week, Laura came in to pick up some donations that we had set aside for her to take for her new place. Among the items to give away, Laura spotted the picture of the cat in the snow, which had been replaced on the advocacy office wall. Laura asked if she could have the photograph, and told the advocate the story of how she used to stare at the photograph and feel like she could relate to cat. The photograph now hangs on Laura's wall in her own home to remind her of how far she has come.