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hope stories

Hope Stories: Debbie

Debbie had been through her share of struggles before she moved to Bishop Sullivan Residence, one of two permanent supportive housing sites in Brooklyn. In the space of a few years, Debbie had lost her mother, her marriage, and her home. A deep depression set in, and she could see no way out of homelessness.

Today Debbie is finding her footing at Sullivan Residence, with ongoing involvement of on-site clinical and case management staff. “Everyone has been so nice,” she said. “They help with budgeting, medical issues, counseling, referrals, whatever you need.” Debbie also worked with a volunteer tutor for several months to prepare for her GED test. “She was very patient and sweet,” she said. “We still keep in touch.” Over the summer, Debbie even got very involved with a community garden across the street, growing everything from onions to lavender.

Debbie’s time at Providence House has been a journey from isolation and depression to community, stability, and hope.

Hope Stories: Alicia

About 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve in 2009, just released after a 13-year prison term, Alicia arrived at Providence House V. “The very first thing they did when I got there was give me a present,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t looking forward to anything.”

“Sister Pat Mahoney said to me ‘Come on, just sit with me. Let’s eat something. Let me make you a cup of tea.’ I sat down and I just talked. And Sister Pat listened.”

Alicia told of her childhood in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, with conflict and strained relationships at home. “By age nine, I did what I wanted,” she said. “I was in and out of jail. I was in gangs. I ran away from home and just ran the streets recklessly.”

Later, after her father’s death, her mother moved upstate with Alicia’s twin girls. Alicia stayed in the city. Her life on the streets intensified, leading to a drug conviction and prison.

Alicia was troubled about how to write the next chapter of her life. She soon found at Providence House a supportive community of staff, residents, and sisters who both challenged and encouraged her to grow. “They did everything to make me feel like I could do this,” she said.

Alicia worked with staff to meet parole requirements and adjust to life on the outside. She grew in confidence, started working, and saved her pay. After a year with us, she moved into her own apartment. It hasn’t always been easy, and there was a period when Alicia was unemployed—but she held fast. She’s working and still living independently. Along the way, she paid off some debts and completed her parole. And she’s enjoying a closer, better relationship with her family—especially her daughters.

Hope Stories: Tiffany

“I feel at home here,” said Tiffany, looking around at the familiar dining room, remembering her turbulent reality before coming to Providence House.

Last fall, amid family turmoil and broken ties, Tiffany and her two year old daughter were forced to enter the shelter system. When she became homeless, Tiffany was not only a mother but also employed and one semester away from completing her associate’s degree.

She was referred to one of our Providence Houses, where she was given a chance to put
her ambition to work. Despite being incredibly driven, balancing her responsibilities was far from easy. “It was very hectic,” she said. “I had to make sure I could manage my time between work, school, and taking care of my daughter, who was in day care at this time.”

Tiffany was not deterred. Over the past year at Providence House, she completed work toward
her associate’s degree and was accepted into York College’s bachelor’s degree program in social work. She even took on a second job to save more toward getting an apartment and living independently. With the support of our Housing Specialist, she’s now searching for a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.

What drives her? “I have a daughter, Simone. She’s two. I love her. She keeps me going,”
Tiffany said. “She’s just a bundle of joy. I think she’s why I push so hard. I want her to have
everything I never had growing up.

“Life doesn’t stop because you’re in a shelter. You can still accomplish anything, don’t let
people feel like you can’t. I’m 22 and I’ve been through a lot but I’m not going to let it stop
me.”

Hope Stories: Aniana

Hope Stories: Aniana

We are so happy and excited for Aniana as she and her daughter move in to their own apartment! Aniana came to Providence House with her daughter fleeing domestic violence. While at Providence House she worked as a home health aid while also working tirelessly with our housing specialist, Natasha. With time and diligence, Aniana made incredible progress, making her dreams of a bright future, finally her reality! As Aniana and her daughter settle into their home, they can now harness their relentless spirit of perseverance and dedication in their new chapter of life.

Aniana and her 2 year old daughter 

Aniana and her 2 year old daughter 

Hope Stories: Jessica

Hope Stories: Jessica

Jessica came to our residence after leaving an abusive relationship two years ago. Finding a supportive community at Providence House, she quickly made progress toward independence. A mother of two, Jessica managed to save money diligently. She even managed to keep the same job during her bout of homelessness! This month, Jessica and her children have moved into an apartment in a safe neighborhood, with excellent transportation to her job. Though missed by the many who came to know her well, we’re so proud and happy of her accomplishments!

Hope Stories: Benedicta

Hope Stories: Benedicta

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Benedicta grew up an orphan in Nigeria and came to the United States in search of a better life only to find herself on someone else’s floor month after month. Soon after, Benedicta became pregnant. Still unable to support herself she became depressed at the prospect of raising a child without a stable home. “When I came to this country I thought I messed up. But sometimes disappointments are blessings in disguise,” she said as looked lovingly at her three-month-old daughter, Lakisha.

Benedicta’s healthcare provider referred her to New York City’s Department of Homeless Services, which directed her to Providence House. Benedicta grew close with Natasha, our Housing Specialist, as well as core community members Sister Mary Walsh, Sister Theresa Scanlon, and Sister Joan Gallagher. She quickly formed an especially close bond with Debbie Farrell, the Residence Manager. “Miss Debbie has been so wonderful because she is like a mother to me,” she said. “She is calming and she advises me to carry on no matter what.”
Debbie helped Benedicta through a very painful pregnancy due to a health complication. “She was in a lot of pain and you could see that but she was always pleasant, always a pleasure to be with,” Debbie said. “She mentors the other young women here and she is also working with our volunteer GED tutor, Melissa, so she can get her high school diploma.”

Despite difficulties in Benedicta’s past, she had only relentless enthusiasm and gratitude about her stay at Providence House and hope for the future. “Providence House is a wonderful place. It is a place of hope and I can never believe that I live in a shelter because I always have it in my heart that I live with my family,” she said. “The sisters and everyone else – they are pushing you to be someone in life and I am so thankful to them for standing by me,” she added tearfully.

Hope Stories: Nakia and Teri

Hope Stories: Nakia and Teri

Nakia, Robin, our Job Developer, and Teri

Nakia, Robin, our Job Developer, and Teri

“I was incarcerated at 18,” said former resident Nakia during a recent visit back to Providence House V. “Coming home at 34. . . was like a baby coming into the world.” Many women in our re-entry program feel similarly. Though eager to return to their families and communities, many struggle with uncertainty and anxiety about how to live independently on the outside.

Another former resident who came back to see us, Teri, was in much the same position as Nakia as she approached her release date. Fortunately, both heard about Providence House from other inmates. They connected with staff and the Sisters of St. Joseph, were interviewed, and were accepted into the re-entry program, which consists of two residences in Brooklyn.

“Just because someone has made mistakes in their life doesn’t mean they can’t be a productive member of society,” said Teri. She and Nakia quickly proved that during their months at Providence House. Like all residents of these programs, they received case management services and life skills training to help them stabilize their lives and prepare to live independently. Working with Providence House’s case management and employment staff, Teri quickly found a building maintenance job, where she was later promoted to supervisor, then building manager. Nakia worked as a paralegal.
After they had established themselves and moved out into the community, Teri and Nakia kept in touch with staff and core community members at Providence House. Through grant funding from the Switzer Foundation, we provided tuition help as both women pursued their education. Both completed bachelor’s degrees, Teri in hospitality and hotel management and Nakia in legal studies.

Both women are actively reaching out to women now facing the same challenges they’ve faced. Nakia looks forward to assisting people who are not adequately represented or advised in legal matters. “So many people aren’t aware of their rights,” she said. “They need that assistance.” Teri, now an assistant facilities director for a multi-location nonprofit, stays in touch with our job developer, Robin Toyloy, and interviews and hires current residents who are ready for work and a good fit for one of her positions. “It’s a way to give back,” she said. “Now I can help them. I can repay Providence House a little bit.”

Hope Stories: Shernice

Hope Stories: Shernice

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After going through a few short-term shelters, Shernice and her two-year-old son arrived at Providence House where she finally found the chance to heal, stabilize her life and make a plan to live more self-sufficiently. With the support from Tonisya, our Residence Manager, and others on the Providence House team, Shernice began to rebuild her life, pushing herself to stay motivated and positive.

“Miss T is like a mother figure to me…she is always giving me advice,” she said. “She will always motivate me and remind me that things often get more difficult before they get better.”

Our Job Developer, Robin, worked diligently with Shernice to help her find a job, searching for opportunities in the food industry in which Shernice had past work experience. Robin even accompanied her on job hunting outings. All of Shernice’s hard work and determination paid off when she was hired on the day of the interview at an upscale bakery in Manhattan. “This place is so great. It’s a blessing that fell right into my hands because they wanted somebody in the morning and those are the hours that I can have my son in school so it was just a perfect opportunity,” she said. “This June marked my one-year work anniversary…I love my job.”

In addition to celebrating her one-year employment milestone, Shernice also looks forward to another significant event this summer: moving into her own apartment in August. “I’m being responsible because whatever I do now has an effect on my son,” she continued. “I’m just trying to fix every mistake I made as a young adult so it’s time to do everything I need to do and Providence House is that stepping stone for a lot of women.”