House of Ruth

Kristina’s Story

Kristina’s Story

Before they came to House of Ruth, Kristina* and her two daughters were homeless and living in a shelter in a hotel in D.C. They had a long commute from the shelter to the girls’ school. Kristina’s abuser kept showing up during the commute and threatening them. Kristina would contact the police and let them know she had a restraining order, but he kept appearing. The danger and fear continued until they came to House of Ruth.

Kristina says she can’t even begin to explain all the blessings she and her girls have received at House of Ruth. House of Ruth has been there to lift Kristina and her girls up — to give them a safe place to land, while helping them realize new possibilities for their future.

Two years ago, Kristina and her daughters moved into our permanent supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence. With newfound security and a true support system through House of Ruth’s staff, Kristina was able to ground herself and begin to pursue education and training that will set her up for long-term independence. As of today, Kristina has already earned a medical assistant certification and a medical office administration certification, and she is finishing up the requirements to earn an electronic medical records certification. She is proud of these significant accomplishments and is looking forward to beginning a career in the healthcare industry.

Both of Kristina’s daughters are now thriving. Her oldest daughter Mia* is a senior in high school. She is a thoughtful, accomplished young woman who recently wrote an excellent essay on the struggles and challenges of going through homelessness while in school. Mia has a strong grade point average, and her hard work has truly paid off. She was accepted into eight different colleges, and recently made the decision to attend a local university.

Kristina says House of Ruth has helped me “be able to be the best me that I can be for myself and for my children.” Going back to school was never an option for her before. She and her girls went from being terrified daily to feeling safe and secure. Unlike their previous temporary shelter in a hotel room, the apartment at House of Ruth gave them a space to live normally and create a home. Kristina says “being able to live, and to live safely, has just been awesome.” She says the support system they have now through House of Ruth makes her feel like the sky is the limit.

There is so much to be excited about and look forward to as Mia approaches her high school graduation and makes plans for college. We are proud to help Kristina and her daughters find the safety and support they needed to heal from trauma and take steps toward a beautiful new future.

*Names have been changed.

Monica’s Story

28-year-old Monica* was referred to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). When Monica came to the DVSC she was dealing with a lot of difficult feelings around the recent removal of her children from her care. Her two children had been placed in a foster care setting after police were repeatedly called to her home as a result of violence between Monica and her current boyfriend. The two had always had frequent arguments over the course of their two-year relationship, but things escalated quickly with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Monica’s hours being cut at work, having to homeschool her children, and significant financial stressors.

Monica used the counseling services at the DVSC to process her feelings of sadness and regret at having placed her children in foster care, and worked with her counselor to explore the choices and decisions she had made and elements of the situation she could control, as well as finding compassion for herself at having been in a very difficult situation when the pandemic hit.

Over the course of six months, Monica was able to gain insight into patterns in her relationships that were not healthy, commit to refocusing on making healthier relationship choices, and stabilize her financial situation by accessing a variety of supportive services. Monica was also able to obtain a referral to a parenting class from her DVSC counselor, which she successfully completed, and now feels she has a toolkit of new strategies to help her be a more consistent parent.

*Name has been changed.

Ania’s Story

Ania* brought her young son to House of Ruth to flee domestic violence. During their time at House of Ruth, Ania steadily and successfully rebuilt their lives and established her independence.

They first lived in our residential housing with staff on-site, and after a year, they transitioned into more independent housing through our Bridges scattered site program. While at Bridges, they lived in their own apartment in the community, received income-based rental assistance, case management, and other supportive services.

Ania’s biggest obstacle was her fear of being on her own. She was worried about being able to support herself and her son for the long-term. But Ania was also committed to building on all the opportunities available to her to be successful through House of Ruth. She worked with her case manager to figure out how to bring down her debt, to improve her credit score, and to increase her income. She prioritized saving money. She also took care of herself by attending therapy at our Domestic Violence Support Center, and by participating in support groups.

Ania created a vision board with her dreams and goals early on during her time at House of Ruth. More than a year later, while attending a group session at Bridges, she was with a new group of peers who were creating vision boards. She was proud to share that she had already achieved all of the dreams on the first vision board she created.

When her case manager asked Ania if she was ready to be on her own, she responded, “I feel good, House of Ruth has done well by me, I was able to grow, and I am ready to be on my own.”

In November 2020 she transitioned out of our Bridges program, taking over the lease on her apartment and fully supporting herself and her son, all while working full-time at a nursing home and attending graduate school in the medical field. Now she is beginning to dream about and plan for the day when she will purchase her own home.

Ania is proud to know she is more than capable of standing on her own and thriving. We are honored to support Ania as she worked hard to build a bright future for herself and her son.

*Name has been changed.

Anna’s Story

47-year-old Anna* first came to the House of Ruth Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help separating from a long-term abusive intimate partner. While she was able to separate from him within a few months, her subsequent work in therapy has focused on building up her sense of self after experiencing years of abuse.

Midway through the therapy work, however, the COVID-19 crisis hit and DVSC staff began working remotely. Despite this major challenge, Anna and her therapist didn’t miss a single therapy session, transitioning immediately to telehealth sessions and continuing their work. Interestingly, Anna has begun working on issues that she previously avoided discussing, such as anxiety in dating relationships, emotional regulation, childhood experiences, and her wishes to have a family of her own. As a result, she often remarks that she is no longer overwhelmed by her feelings like she used to be. Instead, she can experience feelings for what they are and let them inform her, rather than avoiding or suppressing them.

Anna often expressed surprise at the kind of therapy offered at the DVSC. In Anna’s own words: “I’m thankful for this kind of therapy…I initially thought this would be just action-oriented where you’d tell me what to do to get out of my relationship and that would be it. I had no idea I’d come out of it having a better sense of where I came from with the family stuff and also know how to deal with my emotions better. People I tell about this are always surprised!”

*Name has been changed.

Casey and Sasha’s Story

Casey* and her daughter Sasha* live in House of Ruth’s permanent supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence who are also overcoming mental health challenges.

During the two years they have been at House of Ruth, Casey has accessed the resources she needs to maintain her sobriety and her mental health, increased both her work hours and her hourly wages, implemented a payment plan for paying off her medical debts, and established healthy communication with her daughter.

Our staff has been there for Casey as she has walked this path. We have connected her to resources, and she has drawn from this support to improve her circumstances. Casey has successfully begun saving money, and our staff is supporting her efforts to identify a career path that could lead to a higher income. We have linked her to free legal resources to help expunge her record, which will improve her career prospects. Our staff has watched her self-esteem grow. We are proud of the work Casey has done to reestablish boundaries with her daughter and to ensure her daughter communicates respectfully with her. With Sasha being in her preteen years and ready to test boundaries, this was a wonderful development in their lives.

The onset of COVID-19 has brought some additional challenges, but Casey has persisted. She continues to work at a fast food restaurant and to serve customers. Her Narcotics Anonymous meetings have been moved to Zoom, and she is still attending regularly.

Casey is eager to do more for herself and for her daughter, and we are there for them both as they walk their journey toward long-term stability and independence. We are proud to support them during this life-changing process.

*Names have been changed.

May’s Story

24-year-old May* was referred to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) by the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) following a report of child endangerment due to the regular arguments that occurred between her and her children’s father. Although May recognized the court viewed her relationship as abusive and dangerous, May did not agree. She had a hard time getting to the DVSC, missing her first two intake appointments, and only attending after her CFSA case worker became involved.

At their sessions, May’s DVSC counselor was able to work with her to identify times when she and her children’s father functioned relatively better, or worse, without applying labels that created resistance to exploring the relationship dynamics. After reframing the situation, May was able to reflect more openly on things that she can do to support more seamless communication in her relationship with her children’s father.

With the progress May made in her DVSC sessions, the court was satisfied that moving forward, May would be less likely to expose her children to interactions they deemed unhealthy.

*Name has been changed.

Lena’s Story

In the wake of the holiday season, and in the midst of challenging times, Lena’s story is a real reminder about what a difference it makes to be surrounded by kindness.

Lena* and her four-year-old son live in House of Ruth’s supportive housing for mothers and children recovering from domestic violence. She says her first visit to House of Ruth just “felt so right.” She loved her apartment and remembers everyone was so welcoming.

Lena says House of Ruth is with her 100%. She does not have much family behind her, and family trauma has made past holidays hard. She doesn’t remember the last time someone gave her a Christmas present, but this year, she said House of Ruth made her feel like part of their family during the holidays. Lena said the festive food at Thanksgiving, the presents at Christmas, and the kindness surrounding her really “made my heart warm.”

Lena has goals and is committed to achieving them. She is working and saving money, making plans to move into her own apartment when the time is right. Next month she will receive her GED, and will enter the management program at her place of employment after obtaining her diploma. This accomplishment was realized while she managed working and caring for her young son. Lena’s son is in pre-kindergarten, and she coordinates overseeing his virtual learning, brings him to his paternal grandmother’s house in the afternoons, works, and manages to complete her own coursework. The pandemic brought changes to her work schedule — her hours have become less regular, and that has decreased the time she is able to spend with her son. This has made Lena very intentional about their time together, and she makes sure they have a chance to play and just have fun.

Lena is also prioritizing her mental health. She is going to counseling at House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center, and she also relies on our housing staff for caring support. Lena says thanks to House of Ruth, she “always has someone to talk to,” which is a big change in her life. If she is feeling overwhelmed with all that she has to manage, she can talk to staff without judgement, and count on encouraging words. She knows her case manager will always tell her, “you’ve got this!”

Our staff has had the privilege of watching Lena grow in self-awareness and confidence as she recognizes her own strength and finds her way to independence. We are honored to support Lena and her son on their journey.

*Name has been changed.

Kenya’s Story

Kenya* and her three children came to House of Ruth to flee an abusive situation. They found safety and support at A New Way, our transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence. That was the beginning of their journey at House of Ruth.

Kenya is inspiring, a go-getter who has successfully drawn on the support available to her through House of Ruth to make her goals a reality. Her admirable resourcefulness was obvious from the very beginning. Upon arrival at A New Way, our staff supported Kenya in identifying her goals and next steps. Her top priority was finding housing for her family. When she learned about the possibility of graduating to our more independent Bridges program, she knew she was prepared to put the work in to qualify. Bridges enables clients to receive income-based rental assistance for an apartment in the community, and the assistance gradually decreases as the client becomes completely independent. The first step toward qualifying was finding a job, and the next step was saving at least $1,000.

After two months of proactive job searching, Kenya secured a great job with Metro. She works the night shift so she has more time to be with her children. She soon exceeded her goal to save $1,000. Our staff worked with Kenya to help her improve her credit score. This improvement enabled her to purchase a more reliable car, and made it possible for her to secure an apartment when she was ready to transition to the Bridges program. She has fallen in love with the apartment and thanks to furniture obtained through A Wider Circle, she has made it a beautiful home for her children.

Our staff has witnessed Kenya’s ebullient spirit and vivaciousness even in the face of tremendous challenges and the anxiety she has experienced while facing them. She has taken care of herself and her family. As her children have experienced emotional and behavioral issues in response to the abuse they witnessed, Kenya has made sure they attend family therapy to work on healing and overcoming these challenges. She participated in weekly group counseling herself.

We have been honored to support Kenya as she turned her anxiety into hope for the future, and to celebrate with her as she blossomed and reached her goals.

*Name has been changed.

Angelica’s Story

This year, Angelica* will safely celebrate Thanksgiving in her own apartment, with her children. This would not be possible without the generosity of House of Ruth’s supporters, our expert staff, and Angelica’s deep resolve to overcome what many would consider to be insurmountable obstacles.

Angelica moved into House of Ruth’s permanent supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence in 2018. Her primary goals were maintaining sobriety and gaining mental stability in the hopes of reuniting with her three children. Within three months of moving into our housing, with support from our staff, Angelica completed all the requirements to reunify with her children.

During her two years at House of Ruth, Angelica actively engaged in case management, mental health services, Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, parenting classes, and therapeutic groups. With the assistance of our staff, she developed and utilized new coping skills that have enabled her to effectively navigate through stressful situations and maintain stability within her home. With financial guidance and monthly budgeting, Angelica saved over $4,000, funds that she used to successfully transition into independent living. In October, Angelica and her children moved into their own three bedroom apartment.

After enduring childhood trauma, domestic violence, and homelessness, Angelica has proven that with support, hard work, and perseverance, her dream of a stable life could turn into reality. The challenges she faced were overwhelming to her at times, but her willingness to actively engage in the services available to her through House of Ruth, carried her through. Our staff is so proud of her ability to transform the negative experiences she has gone through into a positive existence today.

*Name has been changed.

Sydney’s Story

32-year-old Sydney* first came to the House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) seeking counseling support after she separated from her violent husband. Because she was not an American citizen and wished to continue living in this country, she was required to submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services demonstrating she was a victim of marital abuse.

Sydney’s counselor contributed a detailed letter to this application that outlined instances of abuse in her marriage. Sydney also used her time in counseling at the DVSC to process her experiences in her marriage, and came to feel more settled and empowered about what happened to her and her decision to leave her abusive husband. Sydney had never experienced counseling before, and regularly told her counselor that their work together “set me free,” and that it had helped her to “build myself up from the inside.”

*Name has been changed.