In 2008, a story hit the Free Lance-Star about a homeless woman whose boyfriend had brutally attacked and threatened her at gunpoint. She spent weeks in the hospital and was so traumatized by the incident that she withdrew from everyone around her. She lived in the woods, accepting only services from outreach workers for the next four years. Through teamwork of Micah staff, she agreed to let us help her apply for social security and even saw a mental health physician as part of the process.
While waiting for a decision on her benefits, Micah helped her into an apartment and provided support through a grant issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These dollars specifically help Micah to house the chronic homeless—those who have a disability and have lived in a shelter or on the street for a year or more. In the last three years, this money has helped place 139 different people in permanent housing, decreasing the region’s chronic homeless numbers from 83 in 2010 to 56 in 2013, a total change of 33%. Statewide, chronic homelessness has seen almost no change in the last three years. Nationally, chronic homeless numbers have decreased by just 19% since 2007.
This particular woman ran late, the day of her move-in. Her past trauma had her mistrusting that Micah would actually come through on what was promised. She finally emerged from her campsite and rode with me to sign her lease. She quietly toured her new place and curled into a comfortable spot on the living room floor. Her fingers caressed the carpet beneath her and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Come, sit here,” she said, patting the floor beside her. “Is this place really mine. I mean really, no one will take it away from me?” she whispered. I nodded. “Then I think I’ll just stay right here, for now” she said. There was no furniture in the apartment. We still had to get her things from the campsite. And the water needed to be turned on. “This is all I really need,” she said, patting my shoulder. “This is all I need.”
For years, Micah’s plea for helping our street people came in the form of tents, sleeping bags and other survival needs. As you can see, today’s conversation is much different. Dishes, towels, cleaning supplies and gift cards are far more suitable for the needs of the previously un-housed, who need to make their new house a home. We hope you will continue to be a part of this changing conversation in our community. Together we are ending homelessness, one household at a time.