Felicia recently hit an incredible landmark: two years clean. Following eight years of addiction relapses that led to homelessness and separations from her young son, this personal victory means everything. She has her life back.
But it hasn’t been an easy road. “The first time I got clean, I went to an inpatient program for women and children,” she says. “My son was five at that time. I thought I had it then. I moved away from everything and everybody I knew, and I stayed clean for a little over a year.”
Despite doing everything she “was supposed to do” for the recovery program, she relapsed. “And I was right at the end of getting a Section 8 voucher, and I showed up to the appointment loaded – and they proceeded to tell me that I wouldn’t get my voucher. What I learned from that is that I’m always still there, and that you can find drugs anywhere you go.”
A family legacy of addiction & chronic homelessness
Felicia admits, “I don’t even know if I was ready to be helped at that point.” She’d never had a role model for achieving stability. “As a child, we moved around a lot. I grew up in a home of alcoholics and addicts – that’s how they coped with everything in life – so that’s how I learned. I knew that it wasn’t right, but I just kept on doing it anyways.”
So after two more years of living out of a trailer on her grandparents’ property with no running water or toilet – and worst of all, having to “abandon” her young son in her mother’s care – she reached a turning point.
“I knew I needed help; I knew jail wasn’t going to help me; I knew I needed treatment. Going through this a couple of times and realizing I’m getting the same results, I know that it’s not an option anymore.”
Breaking the cycle
Determined, she went through detox and a 30-day inpatient program, then got into Hope Place, an emergency family shelter through Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. “Best decision I ever made in my life,” she says.
“I missed my son so much. Now that I’m getting clean and healthy, I want to be there for him more than ever. I wanted to be a good mom to him, but my addiction prevented me from being able to do that. There’s a lot of pain behind that.”
The shelter gave her the community, support and resources she needed to move beyond getting clean to achieving health and stability. She got her son back with her. She joined a running club and got into kickboxing. She regularly attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA). She entered every Section 8 housing lottery in the region. And she also connected with Case Manager Katie Showalter of Solid Ground’s JourneyHome program, which helps people with children overcome barriers to finding and keeping housing.
‘She met me where I was’
“Katie and I met once a month, and we would go over my goals and see if I reached them. And I did – usually every time – and/or exceeded them. I was very motivated. We budgeted. We talked.” Felicia considered enrolling in an Esthetics program at Aveda Institute. “I was kind of torn: Do I want to take out the student loans and owe more money?”
Katie connected her to pro bono legal services to file for bankruptcy to help alleviate her accumulated debt. “She helped me and steered me in the right direction for that. And we set up goals. One of my goals was to get my driver’s license back; I just got that back literally a month ago.”
While working with Katie, her Section 8 voucher came in, and then she found an affordable two-bedroom through Capitol Hill Housing. “And with Solid Ground, they were able to help me with the deposit and everything.” Without this support, she says, “I definitely wouldn’t be able to go to school. Such a help!” Having stable housing is huge for Felicia. “I think it’s really important to have that – get in somewhere – to get on your feet. Now that me and my son have our own place, we’re able to build a life together. I’m able to support him.”
“Katie was just there with me; that was one of my fears, because I didn’t want to find a job and then move somewhere where I couldn’t get to it. I’ve always been pretty motivated, but it was still nice to have Katie’s support. She met me where I was. Just having that person there really helped a lot. Everything just kind of fell into place.”
Self-determination & perseverance
“I ended up enrolling in school and following through with it. I just did it. I’m like, ‘You know what, this is going to be a life thing, and I’ll get a career out of it, rather than just a job.’ So I held off on making money for a little bit, and I persevered through school, and I graduated, and now I’m getting ready to take my State Board tests, get my license. And I’m pretty motivated. Determined.”
Katie can do nothing but sing Felicia’s praises: “It was a wonderful experience working with her; she is extremely smart and capable, and super resilient. She gives 100% to everything she does. She had a very clear vision about what she wanted to do and where her interests lie. She didn’t just complete her Aveda program, she excelled at it and was recognized by her peers for that. She has so much to offer, so I’m so happy to see her self-actualizing and being fully able to bring all her strengths and talents to her community.”
Other positive lifestyle changes have helped Felicia on her journey. “I run with a group, and it keeps me motivated. I have a running partner.” Running has become a powerful metaphor for her progress: This summer, she completed a 200-mile relay race with other women in recovery, where she herself ran 18 miles in three legs.
“By the time I was done, my whole body hurt; I couldn’t move. It was such an accomplishment.” She says her son “thought it was cool. He didn’t really say much, but he knew I was doing it. My son knows I’m in recovery; there’s no secrets in that aspect. He’s seen a lot, and he knows I’m doing good.”
Today, she’s pounding the pavement handing out résumés and attending job fairs, ready for the next phase of her life. “I’m just amazed at how far I’ve come, where I’m at, and the future to come. I’m more happy with my life than I ever have been – and I think it’s because of my experiences. It’s been rough, it’s been tough, but I learned from all of it. I plan on staying where I’m at for a long time.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness in King County, WA, you can call 2.1.1 to access King County Coordinated Entry for All for assessment and referrals to local programs.