Jessica found herself homeless after spending time in jail and staying with family for a short time. When staying with family fell through, her probation officer told her about To Our House. For eight seasons, To Our House (TOH) had served single homeless men. Determining that the need was present, TOH opened its doors to single homeless women when its ninth sheltering season began in November of 2018. On the third night of season nine, Jessica became the first woman to participate in the program.
Jessica was nervous about coming into the shelter, but the hospitality of volunteers, staff, and other guests helped her feel comfortable almost immediately. One of the most valuable parts of her experience was the bonds that she created with many of the guests while participating in the program, especially with those who were with her that very first week. When informed that she was the first female guest and asked to let staff know of any needs not anticipated for women, everyone was amused that an obvious item, a hairbrush, had been overlooked.
With her basic survival needs provided by TOH and cell phone and work clothes provided by VA CARES, Jessica was able to focus on developing a more sustainable future for herself. Finding immediate employment, Jessica was also able to secure permanent housing and was assisted with first month’s rent through the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program. Through her connections with participating church volunteers and vouchers from the MCEAP Thrift Store and YMCA Thrift Store, she was able to secure much-needed furniture and household items.
When entering the TOH program, Jessica was surprised to learn about the number of people who, like herself, were facing homelessness. Several guests had been living in cars, sleeping in tents, or staying on a friend’s couch. One guest she met would move from shelter to shelter along the Appalachian Trail, going back and forth between Giles and Craig Counties. At her new place of employment, she was able to connect three other TOH guests with jobs. Though she has now moved into housing and no longer needs the services of TOH, Jessica has fond memories of TOH, especially the amazing food provided by volunteers and the friendships she has developed along the way.
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