House of Ruth

Kaeli’s Story

Kaeli’s Story

Kaeli* and her two young daughters have survived the trauma of domestic violence, and now, thanks to House of Ruth and our community of supporters, they will also survive the economic challenges of COVID-19.

Prior to COVID-19 Kaeli worked full-time as a janitor at a local university. When the pandemic hit in March and the university closed, she was out of work.

Thankfully, Kaeli and her daughters have a place to live through House of Ruth’s supportive housing, and a support system through our staff. We are here to assist Kaeli in navigating the practical challenges she faces while helping her remain calm and determined during these uncertain times.

House of Ruth has assisted Kaeli with money for groceries, transportation, and childcare coverage so her children did not have to leave their apartment during the pandemic. House of Ruth also made sure Kaeli and her girls received essential supplies, including hard-to-find items during the pandemic, like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, and soap.

Kaeli carried debt that prevented her from being able to receive unemployment benefits. House of Ruth’s special debt remediation funds have helped pay off the debt. We have also helped her keep up with medical and utility bills while she has been out of work, ensuring she doesn’t take on more debt. Before coming to House of Ruth, Kaeli’s debt would double every year, and while she worked hard to pay it off, she was not able to get ahead of it. Now that she is debt free and her credit is good, she will be able to work toward applying for an apartment. Kaeli is determined to meet this goal.

There is good news to share — Kaeli’s employer reached out and she is starting back at work again this week!

Thanks to the generosity of the community supporting House of Ruth’s programs, Kaeli has survived unemployment. Her daughters have remained safe and healthy. Our children’s groups are still happening via Zoom, and are an ongoing source of support. Kaeli’s older daughter has benefited from access to a computer, the internet, and guidance with completing school assignments.

*Name has been changed.

Brandi’s Story

40-year-old Brandi* came to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) through a referral from local police for help in the immediate aftermath of a violent intimate partner relationship.

Because Brandi was experiencing extreme levels of stress when she first came to counseling, her counselor started by working with her to try and help Brandi feel safer, including in her own body. After a few months of counseling and when Brandi’s symptoms had settled, she began to try to make sense of her past relationship. To assist in her process, her DVSC counselor began employing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), an evidence-based therapy used to help survivors of trauma.

After a few EMDR sessions, Brandi reported that her memory of the “worst incident” in her relationship was not only more tolerable to think about, but her negative beliefs about herself had been largely replaced by more positive beliefs involving personal empowerment, resiliency, and creativity.

“Since I’ve come here,” Brandi told her counselor, “I feel much safer, and I’ve let go of a lot of my anger, which was holding me back. I’m happy to see me make progress.”

*Name has been changed.

Tierra’s Story

Tierra* and her two children recently entered one of House of Ruth’s scattered site programs for survivors of domestic violence. In our scattered site programs, clients live in their own apartment in the community and pay a portion of their rent based on their income. That portion grows as clients stabilize their lives and increase their income. Clients also benefit from access to counseling, case management, and life skills training.

Tierra and her children left a very abusive home situation, and our staff worked hard and fast to quickly get them out and into a safe apartment.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Tierra was enrolled in the DC Career Connections employment program but was not able to be placed in a job because of the crisis. This created a temporary gap in her income, and House of Ruth was there to support her — with additional rent money to prevent her from losing her apartment, and necessary food supplies. With support from House of Ruth, she made it through that uncertain time and has started to receive payments from the employment program.

Tierra is focused and driven. She has earned her Commercial Driver’s License and is preparing to put it to use at work. Ultimately she wants to work for the Washington Metro Transit Authority, and the Career Connections program will give her the employment experience needed to pursue this goal.

With help from House of Ruth, Tierra and her family were able to receive the emotional support they need to heal from the trauma they have experienced. Tierra goes to therapy herself, and she also goes to counseling with one of her children every week, supporting her child in their recovery process.

Tierra wanted to move her children away from the abuser into their own apartment for a long time, but it wasn’t possible. She had debt and her credit wasn’t perfect. She was incredibly grateful and relieved to be able to take the next step to safety and independence with House of Ruth. Today their lives are free from violence because of Tierra’s bravery.

Our staff has watched Tierra’s joy in setting up her family’s apartment — arranging furniture, unpacking boxes and gradually creating a safe and happy home of their own. Tierra has proudly declared, “this is my apartment, my kids, and we are moving forward.”

*Name has been changed.

Michelle’s Story

Michelle* and her three children lives in one of House of Ruth’s supportive housing programs for mothers and children who have survived domestic violence. Like more than thirty other House of Ruth residents, Michelle recently lost her job as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle is a dedicated, hard worker. She is certified to provide in-home healthcare. She has gone through difficult times before, having cared for terminally ill patients who passed away, which meant she was out of work for periods of time. Most recently she worked in Maryland. This situation started off well when she had a car, but when the car broke down and needed prohibitively expensive repairs, she had to take public transportation. This meant two bus rides and one metro ride just to take her daughter to daycare and get to work. House of Ruth was able to help her some with Lyft rides, but most of her wages went to transportation costs. Despite these challenges, Michelle was determined to keep working.

Today, House of Ruth is supporting Michelle with essentials (e.g. toilet paper, groceries) while she waits for her unemployment and stimulus checks to come through. She has also applied for food stamps. More time at home has given Michelle a chance to reflect, and she has realized she needs more education to obtain a healthcare position that pays a sustainable wage. She is researching degree programs. Our staff will be there for her as she figures out how to make this happen. Staff empowers every client we serve by helping them create a personal budget, and Michelle’s budget includes making regular, minimal payments on an educational loan for which she is in default. This has already set her up to move forward with her new plans in a reasonable time frame, and will keep her past challenges from preventing her from reaching her goals.

Michelle is a wonderful mother who wants the best for her children, and works hard to stay tuned into their needs. She has sought the help of our staff to make sure her children are able to complete their school assignments during the quarantine. Both of her boys are elementary school age and on the honor roll. This morning she joyfully announced that her older son was accepted into a middle school for gifted students, which he will attend in the fall. She makes sure the boys stay very active, and they have excelled while playing on multiple sports teams.

Her three year-old daughter, Elise*, attends Kidspace, our developmental childcare center. Like many children who have gone through trauma, Elise has experienced developmental delays. This was difficult for Michelle to recognize, but with supportive guidance from our staff, she was able to see the need for testing. Since then Elise has received regular speech therapy at Kidspace. Today she is doing so well!

As we face the reality of the current COVID-19 crisis, our staff is helping Michelle and all our clients process their anxieties, problem-solve in the face of new challenges, and remember their resilience — they have already come through so much. Michelle has faced many setbacks in her life, but she is vigilant in moving forward. She is a wonderful example for us all during difficult times. Michelle regularly expresses her appreciation for the help she has received from House of Ruth.

*Names have been changed.

Dana’s Story

47-year-old Dana* first came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) for help with depression and anxiety. After struggling with addiction for more than a decade, Dana has acknowledged that her early life trauma was a major factor in her mood management issues, and consequently her struggles with substance use.

Dana and her DVSC counselor began by exploring what it meant for her to show up and not avoid her emotions—either by ignoring them or self-medicating—as she had done for years. Dana made the commitment to avoid behaviors she knew were unhealthy, and used her counseling sessions to help identify and implement more positive coping strategies to manage her moods.

Counseling has allowed Dana to discuss and process her most challenging life experiences so that they have less hold over her. Dana has started to rebuild and reconnect with those who can support her in her quest for living a life where she can manage her difficulties and thrive.

*Name has been changed.

Ronni’s Story

We are open for business and serving our hundreds of clients in this time of uncertainty, illness and difficulty. We hope our clients, staff and donors stay safe and healthy.

Ronni* and her two daughters came to House of Ruth’s supportive housing seeking safety from an abusive relationship. During her time at House of Ruth, she has regained her sense of self and rebuilt her life.

Ronni was able to transition from temporary employment to working full-time as a janitor at a local university. She opened her own bank account and started saving money. She was able to purchase a car and is now saving money with the ultimate goal of buying a home where she can raise her girls. House of Ruth connected her to a first-time homebuyer’s program run by NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America), and with their support, she knows she will make that dream a reality.

Ronni has also taken full advantage of the personal support available to her through House of Ruth. She goes to one-on-one therapy and participates in group counseling. She has truly found her own self-worth and value—severing the abusive relationship with her child’s father, finding the courage to obtain child support, and going through the process of getting custody of her children. Our staff was there to connect her to legal assistance and to support her emotionally as she faced these challenges.

Through House of Ruth, Ronni has accessed a safety net that has carried her through the process of healing and rebuilding. Some days it seems like the little things can make the biggest difference… Our staff was there to watch her young daughters when she temporarily lost access to daycare services, which meant she was still able to go to work. We also helped Ronni with transportation when her car broke down, again ensuring she didn’t lose her job.

Ronni has made the most of her time at House of Ruth. She is facing the future with positivity, determined not to be in another abusive relationship and to ensure a stable, loving home environment for her daughters. Thanks to the support of our donors and Ronni’s strength, she and her girls are moving forward toward a safe, independent, and positive future.

*Name has been changed.

Katie’s Story

24-year-old Katie* began attending sessions with a counselor at the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) following a recent breakup. After Katie ended her abusive relationship, she still struggled with very low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority as a result of the abuse.

Katie was able to work with her counselor to process her negative feelings, and evaluate her tendency to disproportionately blame herself. With the help of her counselor, Katie came to realize and acknowledge she was not responsible for her partner’s abusive behavior. Katie was able to rebuild her confidence in herself by working to identify activities that reinforced her interests and helped her build a sense of accomplishment.

Currently, Katie is using her sessions at the DVSC to help her plan the next phase of her life, exploring career interests and furthering her education.

*Name has been changed.

Esther’s Story

Esther* and her young daughter Vanessa* have faced tremendous traumas and obstacles to stability, but thanks to their perseverance and the generous support of our community members, they are thriving.

Esther is a refugee who moved to the United States with her husband. His abusive behavior led her to flee to House of Ruth with their daughter. At House of Ruth she found safe housing, daily support, counseling, and case management that included connections to much needed legal services. She also found a stable, caring environment for Vanessa, who is diagnosed with autism.

Esther is a force. She is a determined, brave women who can speak five different languages. Today she is in school, about to obtain her GED, and has qualified to begin working as a language interpreter. She takes wonderful care of Vanessa, who is thriving in a school for children with special needs. This positive trajectory would not be possible without Esther’s resilience and the care and concern of our community of supporters.

*Names have been changed.

Willow’s Story

Willow* is a young mother living with her children in House of Ruth’s supportive housing. Her two-year old daughter Aria* and her infant son Lucas* are both enrolled in our Kidspace Child and Family Development Center.

When Aria first arrived at Kidspace as a young toddler, she barely spoke. She did a lot of observing and she listened well, but she interacted without words. She passed her developmental screening, but our experienced staff knew that her speech level did not match her other abilities. Our speech therapist worked with her from the very beginning, and she has made great progress. She now expresses herself verbally and speaks with confidence. In fact, one of her first spontaneous words was her brother’s name!

Aria’s positive adjustment to Kidspace is also evident in her morning routine. At first she had a really hard time separating from her mom in the mornings, which was very stressful for her and her mother. But now, she loves her teachers and walks right into the classroom, excited to jump in and start her day.

Lucas was just a small infant when he began at Kidspace. He is thriving under the consistent care of his loving teachers and his mom’s newfound stability. He is a happy baby, cooing and babbling, showing no signs of speech delays.

Willow was initially slow to warm up to Kidspace staff, but as she has watched her children thrive her trust has grown, and now she comes to staff for parenting support. She has even chosen to attend our parent committee meetings, contributing her voice to the Kidspace community.

*Names have been changed.

Fiona’s Story

55-year-old Fiona* came to the Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) after 30 years of an abusive relationship with a man she had known all her life. Fiona initially expressed a great deal of reticence about coming to counseling, both because of cultural taboos around sharing her ‘business’ outside her family, and fear of addressing the extensive trauma she had endured.

Fiona and her DVSC counselor were able to construct initial treatment goals focusing on self-care and strategies for improving Fiona’s emotion regulation skills. They agreed to hold off on delving deeply into the details of Fiona’s abuse. Over time, with improved self-care and increased ability to self-soothe, Fiona felt more able to begin discussing her trauma history.

Using this approach gave Fiona time to develop rapport with her counselor, so it didn’t feel like she was sharing information with a stranger. Working collaboratively with clients to meet them where they are is a hallmark of the work counselors at the DVSC do every day. It is an integral part of helping clients to regain a sense of control and self-determination.

*Name has been changed.

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