From a Felony to a Fair Chance
Anthony has lived in the District all his life, growing up in Mt. Pleasant when it was still a rough neighborhood. At 19 he was sent to prison for the first time, and it wasn’t until 2010 that he finally got out and committed himself to changing his life for the better.
But with a prison record Anthony had a hard time applying for work, and without a job, eventually became homeless.
“I went to all the job fairs, and filled out hundreds of applications. But I couldn’t get past that one box: ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony?’”
In 2014, Anthony found Thrive DC. With the help of the employment specialist, he enrolled in the Real Opportunity Training Program to become a professional chef. Despite being homeless when the program started, Anthony arrived on time every day and worked hard to make the most of his opportunity.
“Thrive [DC] has so much to offer. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of it all?”
Today, Anthony has found success as a full-time employee at a restaurant in Adams Morgan. With a consistent salary to look forward to, he is working with Thrive DC’s housing coordinator to find an apartment and become self-sufficient.
“This is just the beginning,” Anthony says. “There’s so much more I’m trying to do, so much more I want to do.”
My Story is Empowerment
Russeline came to Thrive DC in crisis. She had no food, no clean clothing, and no place to live. She struggled with addiction and was experiencing both mental and chronic health problems.
She spent more than 6 years living on the streets and in prison. Finally, she came to Thrive DC by suggestion from her friend.
“Without Thrive DC, I don’t know if I would’ve made it,” she said.
Now she says the staff at Thrive DC have helped her become a person she is proud of. At first she only expected a meal, but with the help of the staff she has found so much more.
“Most of all, I found friends at Thrive DC,” says Russeline.
As they got to know her, staff at Thrive empowered Russeline to get healthy, obtain insurance, and attend job training sessions. Now she has a job at a dental clinic, has her health problems under control with support from Thrive DC, and no longer feels the need to take drugs.
She attributes her successes to her friends at Thrive who literally saved her life.
“Now I get up every day knowing I’m going to do something responsible.”
Russeline continues to meet with staff members and receive services from Thrive DC, but she is finally in a place in her life where she feels happy.
From the Supreme Court to Homeless
Marvin had been a gardener at the US Supreme Court for two years when a sudden change in management cost him his job. The series of events that followed were rapid and devastating. Marvin was nearing retirement age and instead of looking forward to that, he had to spend his savings to survive. He lost his car, his home and with what felt like dizzying speed, Marvin found himself alone living on the streets.
“I was green. I didn’t know anything about how to survive as a homeless person.”
While staying at one of the shelters in downtown DC, Marvin was befriended by a group of men who were also homeless. They took Marvin under their wing and brought him to Thrive DC.
“Thrive DC is where I really started to progress. I could do everything here… have a warm breakfast, take a shower, use the computer lab and get help from Jessica (Director of Social Services) and other staff and volunteers with the many different challenges I faced. “
With steady progress and much hard work on his part, Marvin got a job and for the next six months he focused on achieving his next goal – finding housing so he can marry his girlfriend and start a new life with her. After being denied housing on three attempts, Marvin finally received keys to an apartment in a transitional housing program. He and his fiance have begun making plans for their wedding.
“I’d like for everyone at Thrive DC who helped me along the way to know I’m doing great. Thank you for all you have done for me!”
Homeless to Community Leader
Chearie’s story is one of personal triumph and success against all odds. She has become a leader in her community despite nearly two decades of homelessness and a stint in prison.
Chearie first came to Thrive DC years ago after her release from incarceration.
“I was broken when I first came here,” says Chearie, “Everything started from [Thrive DC].”
Chearie quickly became involved in Thrive DC’s employment programs and, with determination and enthusiasm, was also accepted into our Real Opportunity training program to learn professional development strategies and how to be a chef.
Chearie says that, for her, the most valuable part of her experience at Thrive DC was the training that taught life skills like conflict avoidance and professional presentation, and how to open a bank account and build up credit.
Chearie graduated from the Real Opportunity program two years ago, and still uses the skills she learned in all aspects of her life.
“I learned respect here. [Thrive DC] gave me the building blocks to grow.”
With help from Thrive DC’s employment specialist, Chearie got connected to more resources around the city, which led her to attend leadership trainings, earn certifications in customer service and property management, find a spot in a transitional housing facility and eventually secure an apartment of her own.
Chearie is now on her way to becoming a leasing agent, so she can help others going through her struggle.
Chearie says none of her success would have been possible without the help of Thrive DC.
“Everybody had time for me,” she says, “Thrive DC was like my family.”