One day last March, Joyce packed up her things, walked out of her apartment and closed the door for the last time. That night she slept outside, at a spot she had picked out in her neighborhood that had a brick overhang to protect her from the rain. It was cold and she clung to her things so they wouldn’t be stolen, but she had faith something was going to work out.
“I just sat there and I remembered saying to myself, ‘I'm just waiting for my miracle.’”
It all started when Joyce lost her job. She was struggling with some emotional and mental health challenges and didn’t feel able to find another job and go back to work before addressing them. After exhausting most of her savings she realized she would no longer be able to afford rent and was going to lose her home. With no friends or family in Portland, that meant sleeping on the street. “I guess to say the least, I was giving up on life and I didn't feel like I had a future. I thought my life was ending,” she explained. “I really thought I didn't have anything left.”
Joyce moved to another spot for the third night, and in the morning someone asked her how long she had been outside. Though she wasn’t aware of it, Joyce was sleeping in front of one of Do Good Multnomah’s shelters. The organization was able to get her into the shelter immediately, where she made friends with a woman named Joy who helped her get her bearings. “I remember crying and it hurt,” she said, “but I got coffee, I got donuts, I got a bed.”
Do Good Multnomah eventually moved Joyce into a pod at their Arbor Lodge shelter, where she had her own space and some privacy. The shelter – which is temporarily closed for renovations – is paid for with Metro’s supportive housing services fund. Shortly after Joyce entered the shelter program, she was signed up with Do Good’s Mobile Support Services program, which is also paid for with the Metro fund. The program assists people transitioning from houselessness into permanent housing by providing the services they need to achieve stability in all areas of their life.
Joyce’s social worker, Sherrilynn, works alongside a peer support specialist, housing retention specialist and housing access coordinator in the MSS program. Joyce described how Sherrilynn has provided essential support during this time, beyond helping her get into a new home: “Her talking to me really does change my life. She says the simple things that I could say to myself, but I feel like, well, I kind of need you to say them. I need people. I can't just be by myself all the time and I need to voice what I'm thinking and feeling.”
Now that Joyce has a home and access to the resources she needs to stabilize her life, she’s able to look forward. “It gives me a chance to have hope or feel like I have a future,” she explained. “Now I can think about that. I wasn't thinking about that before.”
With a degree in fine art and a professional background working with young children, Joyce is thinking about possible career paths. Working with children again is one option and owning a spiritual counseling business is another. Looking further ahead, she would like to eventually own her home and travel. Having access to the support offered through the Mobile Support Services program – including rent assistance paid for by Metro's supportive housing services fund – has led her to a place where she feels like she is no longer constantly worrying about the future the way she used to.
“Just don't give up,” she said, “there's probably some path that you didn't know that was there. If you just keep walking, you might find it.”