Ronni has spent their whole life putting the care of other people in front of their own needs. Known as “Mom” to their friends, Ronni has helped others experiencing homelessness to seek help while avoiding outside help for themselves. For years, Ronni lived out of a van in the impromptu camps located around the Burlington area. During a low point, Ronni lost the van and finally sought support with Pathways Vermont. “I realized then that instead of doing it all by myself, I needed to be the one to accept as much help as I gave everybody else,” Ronni said.
With the assistance of Pathways Vermont’s Housing First Team, Ronni has recently moved out of the camps into a wonderful apartment in Winooski. “This has been a really good month for me,” they said, laughing. “I love my Pathways team. They’re like friends that go the extra mile for me, they’re my biggest cheerleaders.” Ronni doesn’t identify as male or female and says that the team at Pathways Vermont has always been understanding of their identity. “My reality is not your reality. My feelings are my feelings, even if you’re not participating in them, and Pathways understands that.”
Ronni was one of a number of Pathways Vermont clients selected to go to a recent conference in Washington, DC and meet with other Housing First tenants from DC and Philadelphia. “I really enjoyed meeting other people in Housing First programs because we were able to compare our experiences. It’s a shock when you move into a home from living on the streets, it was comforting to hear how other people handle it.” expressed Ronni.
Along with fellow Housing First tenants, Ronni met Executive Director Hilary Melton, attended talks on alternatives to suicide and alternate realities. “I really appreciated the opportunity to go because it wasn’t something I thought I would ever be able to do. It really gave me a life goal at a time when I really needed one,’ Ronni said.
The experience in Washington gave Ronni a new view on life and what is possible for them. “ My biggest takeaway from this trip was that I know more than I thought I did and that I can be more independent than I thought I could be. My goals now are to become more involved with my local city council and participate in efforts to end homelessness. I also learned that I could become a peer specialist by taking some courses so that I can be a better resource in my community.”
Ronni had this message to send to folks who are still experiencing homelessness: “You may be physically alone in the moment, but it is only a moment and you won’t be alone forever. Learn what your community resources are and never be afraid to ask for help.”