Before Ashley Potts connected with Case Manager Tamara Bauman of Solid Ground’s JourneyHome/Rapid Rehousing (JHRRH) program, her life was about negotiating fear: Fear that her abuser would track her down. Fear that she’d have to leave the shelter and end up on the streets with her young son, Marcus. Fear that – even after scoring a housing voucher – no landlord would accept her because of a past eviction incurred when she fled her abuser.
Referred to Solid Ground after a domestic violence shelter stay, Ashley laid everything out on the table when meeting Tamara for the first time. It was a huge relief to not be alone in this journey – to be able to say, “Just take some of this load.”
At the shelter, she had made a safety plan and set goals, but, she says, “We’ve done a lot of shuffling. When you have a constant worry of someone lurking after you, then it becomes hard. You can’t be successful if you know you have an abuser constantly preying and looking for you 24/7.”
Finally, Ashley found out her abuser was in prison with a long sentence: “It gave me a whole clean slate to start my life completely over; I could breathe again.”
Still, the uncertainty of shelter stays was nerve wracking: “You’re basically living out of your bag. You never know whether or not to unpack – whether or not to get comfortable. When you have an exit date waved in your face and you don’t know if you’re going to get an extension or not, it’s the scariest thing in the world, because you’re by yourself, you have your child.”
‘I can get you where you need to go’
As they dove into working together, Ashley told Tamara, “This is what I’m faced with, this is where I’m trying to get. I have my voucher, and I only have a week to find somewhere to move or I’m going to lose my voucher.” Tamara reassured her, “If you need anything, I might not have it, but I can get you where you need to go. I can get you connected, I can get you resources. We’re going to figure it out and see what we can do.” Ashley was relieved. “That’s all anyone’s ever looking for out here.” She said, “‘I have all these papers; let’s call right now! Tell me what you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ We just got on the ball, and it started rolling.
“With Tamara, we worked on goals – things that I wanted to accomplish – like cleaning up my credit. We pulled my credit report. She was like, ‘This is how much you owe. Maybe you should look into your debt?’ She always gives a boost of encouragement. She checked in with me: ‘So how did it go?’ Sometimes we need that extra push.”
Ashley says that Tamara and JHRRH helped demystify the housing system for her, adding, “There are so many people who need help and they don’t know how to do it. They’re being rerouted, rerouted. It’s like monopoly. You roll the dice, you go forward, move back. It’s a push and pull every time. From the outside looking in, if you were simply asking, ‘What did you get done today?’ and you said, ‘Well I called five places, but nobody answered.’ It looks like you didn’t get anything done and that I’m not being productive.”
With Solid Ground, “You are valued as the individual and the situation you are going through. There are things I’ve never told anyone, but I felt confident enough to express myself to Tamara.” Ashley says, “I was grateful, because the number one thing I wanted was to be heard. We all want to be heard. We all want to be on a platform. On the inside, we’re screaming for help. ‘Tell me where to go. Tell me what to do.’ No one ever has the answers. For me, Tamara was the answer. Solid Ground was the answer.”
‘Keep going, don’t stop swimming’
A mere month after connecting with Tamara, permanent housing came through. Ashley admits it was scary to finally get her own place and graduate from JHRRH: “When I came here, I didn’t know how to relax. I didn’t know how to be home, to chill, and to enjoy.” She even kept that packed suitcase, ready to go. But there is ongoing support after graduation, and Tamara and JHRRH were there for her.
The transition was tough on Marcus as well. “There was some disconnect there with all the bouncing around. He didn’t know how to be a kid, how to stay in a child’s place, not to worry, not to feel like we had to leave,” Ashley says. “Tamara got me on the right track, with the right people, on where to go and different types of resources,” including counseling for Marcus. “She was like a life coach: ‘You’re swimming, you got it!’ … ‘I’ve been let go’ … ‘You’re fine. Keep going, don’t stop swimming.’”
Today Ashley feels, “I’ve grown into a better person after this experience. I just started a job. I’m happy, I feel safe. Solid Ground has been the best experience of my life. Out of a million people who are homeless with their kids, living in their cars, bus stop hopping – I feel utterly blessed to have the opportunity.
“Everyone wants to have their keys in their hand, and lock the door behind them. You don’t have to worry about anyone coming in behind you. Home is sanctuary. I’m home, I’m finally home.”
Ashley had so many powerful things to say about experiencing homelessness while raising Marcus that we set up another post, Realities of family homelessness, to share her insights.