Rochelle Love opened a new chapter in her life in 2020 when she moved into an apartment of her own in Federal Way. After decades marked by homelessness, abusive relationships, and struggles with addiction, she was finally home.
But after spending hours moving her things into the new space, Rochelle was so exhausted she fell asleep before she had a chance to move her car from the reserved spot she’d parked in. In the morning, it was gone.
“I thought I was going to lose my job. I thought everything we worked so hard for was going to go down the drain,” Rochelle says. “But Victoria pulled another miracle out of her hat. She met me at the tow yard and got my car back.”
Your investment in Solid Ground helps families like Rochelle’s reconnect, heal, and thrive.
“She did everything under the sun. She always asked me if I needed anything. She’d help me get gas to get to work, she bought me work shoes, everything.” ~Rochelle Love, JourneyHome participant
“Victoria” is Victoria Meissner, a longtime Case Manager with Solid Ground’s JourneyHome Rapid Rehousing team. Since 1997, the program has helped thousands of families experiencing homelessness get back into homes and build enough stability in their lives to stay there. Case managers like Victoria help identify suitable apartments, negotiate with landlords, arrange for temporary rental assistance, and provide other support families need to achieve their goals and manage any hurdles that come their way.
But Rochelle says JourneyHome didn’t just allow her to get a home and stability for herself – it helped reunite her fractured family.
“I would probably still be sleeping in my car if it wasn’t for Victoria,” she says. “She helped get me back to being me – to being a mother again.”
Surviving and thriving beyond trauma
Rochelle has overcome countless barriers along the way, including a lifetime of trauma that started when she was in middle school and living on her own in Seattle. She learned how to sell drugs to survive, got pregnant, and spent time in prison – all before she was 21.
“The only way I knew to survive at that age was life on the streets,” she says.
As an adult, Rochelle survived a series of violent and unhealthy relationships, sometimes hiding the bruises they left on her. By the time she connected with Victoria in 2020, she had strained relationships with three of her four kids and was living in her car after escaping an abusive marriage. She was working full-time and then some, but she still couldn’t afford an apartment on her own.
“It was hard to even feed me and my kids before Victoria came into my life,” Rochelle says. “She did everything under the sun. She always asked me if I needed anything. She’d help me get gas to get to work, she bought me work shoes, everything.”
Creativity and flexibility to solve complicated challenges
But getting someone into an apartment and a stable place isn’t as simple as cutting a check. Case managers like Victoria are skilled at navigating complicated funding and program requirements to get participants what they need, often developing creative solutions to the unique challenges that different families face.
In Rochelle’s case, a spot in Solid Ground’s Family Shelter happened to open up at the right time, and Victoria was able to get her into a furnished apartment while she looked for something more permanent. Rochelle needed a working car to get from the family shelter in Magnolia to her job in Sea-Tac, so Victoria arranged money to pay for car repairs and got her bus passes to use while the car was in the shop.
“Rochelle is tenacious. I’d love for her to be able to teach other people to keep going when it’s hard, because a lot of people would just give up. But Rochelle never has.” ~Victoria Meissner, JourneyHome Case Manager
Victoria eventually found a few places that Rochelle could afford with a subsidy from JourneyHome, but several landlords denied her application before Victoria was finally able to convince one to accept it.
“I don’t even know how she did it,” Rochelle says. “Just one day, they called me and said to pick up my keys.”
While looking for an apartment, Victoria pulled Rochelle’s credit report to see if she could do anything to improve her finances. JourneyHome case managers often show participants how to get help with things like medical debt and back taxes, or at least identify things in their credit report that they can explain away to a landlord.
Support that doesn’t end on moving day
Victoria continued to support Rochelle after she moved into her apartment and began to build more stability in her life. When Rochelle got COVID, Victoria made sure she had enough food at her apartment. And when Rochelle was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver while working, Victoria gave her advice about making sure she got compensation for her injuries and the medical care she needed.
“I call her my guardian angel,” Rochelle says. “I’ve been through a lot of things, and she’s the only person in my 43 years of life who’s done what she’s done for me.”
And Rochelle says the best thing Victoria ever did for her was to make it possible for her to bring her family back together again.
“When they all found out that I got a new place, they all moved back in,” she says. “My kids, they look at me totally different now. They respect me a lot more.”
Victoria, however, will tell you that Rochelle’s the one who earned that respect.
“Rochelle is tenacious,” Victoria says. “I’d love for her to be able to teach other people to keep going when it’s hard, because a lot of people would just give up. But Rochelle never has.”
JourneyHome Rapid Rehousing’s core services are funded by the City of Seattle, King County, and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority, but private grants and individual donations are key to its success. These critical contributions give us the flexibility to address participants’ unique and evolving needs in ways that public contracts may not allow. To support JourneyHome and other Solid Ground programs, please make a gift today.