Micah House Graduate: "This Time, I Had Hope"
After two years rebuilding her life and confidence at Micah House, "S" is ready to graduate. "I have met every goal I set since coming to Micah House," she said, and she is eager to meet her next goal of independent living.
She came to Micah House in February 2004, after several attempts at rehabilitation from drug and alcohol abuse. "I always had faith, but I didn't have hope," she said. "This time, I had hope."
Along with hope, she knew that work was key--any work. Though she had trained as a dental assistant and had worked in administrative positions, her first job after inpatient rehabilitation was cleaning bathrooms at the Washington Convention Center. It was "one of the things I thought I would never do because I thought I was better than that," she said, "but it kept me grounded and really taught me humility and gratitude. I took pride in cleaning bathrooms; the job didn't matter as long as I was productive."
She moved on to administrative work more in keeping with her training, but the path was not smooth. After several temporary jobs, she landed a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but was laid off in a general cutback after several months. Meanwhile, she took computer classes to expand her skills.
This past winter, her hard work and determination paid off when she got a job in her chosen field as a dental assistant.
With the same determination, she is confident that she will find a place to live when she moves out of Micah House. Having recently looked for apartments with another Micah House graduate, she is aware of just how tough it may be. Rents in Washington have spiraled in the last five years, and the availability of units renting for less than $500 a month has dropped by more than 20 percent.
As she braces for her next challenge, she expressed gratitude to Micah House: "Being in Micah House has been a blessing in my life."
Her progress underscores the value of Micah House. Temple Micah members founded the house in 1989 during a citywide movement intended to encourage religious organizations to help tackle urban problems.
Micah House, run by a volunteer board of temple members and one former resident, provides a transitional residence for homeless women in recovery from substance abuse. Unlike other transitional settings, Micah House does not have a live-in manager: the residents are largely responsible for the house and for their lives.
Micah House residents must work or attend school, and they must be alcohol and drug free. They pay a modest rent. Through a contract with Community Family Life Services, residents receive individual and group counseling as well as job advice and other services to help them move toward self-sufficiency. The board recently instituted a matching program to help them save money to rent or buy homes when they graduate.
For its first 14 years, Micah House was located in a rented house in the District's Petworth neighborhood. In 2003, the board purchased a newly renovated house in the same neighborhood. "S" is the second graduate from the new house. For more information about Micah House, email Micah House.
[from May 2006 Vine; by Genie Grohman]