Nikki is a mother and a native Vermonter. She exudes a warm, positive, inspiring energy. Nikki first experienced homelessness in 2016. She struggled with drug and alcohol use and got by stealing and sleeping in the downtown parking garages and wherever she could find a place. “It wasn’t pretty,” Nikki reflects. “ When I was homeless, it didn’t feel like there was any assistance; there just wasn’t help.”
In 2018, Nikki was arrested for violating conditions of a prior release. This led to her incarceration until November 2021.
“I faced withdrawal symptoms in jail,” she recalls. “One day, I tried making a birthday card for my daughter, only to realize I didn’t even know her favorite color. That was my wake-up call.” Determined to change her life, Nikki came across the Pathways Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) program.
Nikki had an upcoming court case where she was due to be released from incarceration. “I think the judge was shocked, but I asked to stay incarcerated for longer.” Nikki said. “I didn’t want to be released from jail to be homeless and on the streets again, I was sober at that point and I didn’t want to throw that away.” Nikki stayed in jail until she was able to be released and work directly with the Pathways DOC program. “Doing it that way, I did an extra year and a half in jail. I had nothing, but when I left incarceration I moved straight into an apartment with a bed, a safe place to stay, everything I needed to get by was there.”
Nikki’s journey continued as she transitioned from her initial Pathways Vermont apartment in Winooski on November 30th, 2021, to a permanent residence in Burlington on September 1st, 2023. “Pathways did more than just provide housing; they have connected me with doctors, resources, and have even brought me to appointments. They’ve been there for me every step of the way.” Looking to the future, Nikki is excited to spend time with her three kids and grandchild, and an upcoming knee surgery which will enable her to be in better shape to keep up with her kids.
When asked what she’d say to someone unfamiliar with Pathways, Nikki emphasized:
“Anyone who is a user and struggling and thinks it can’t be done is wrong. There are programs out there to assist you and give you strength and the pillars to lean on. Pathways is one of the best programs that I found to do that. Everything I have now is because of Pathways. They will work with you, you just need to be open and honest with them.”