Ronni is a one-of-a-kind individual who cares deeply for those around them and has a sense of humor and smile that can light up a room. We first interviewed Ronni in 2019 when, with Pathways’ help, they moved into an apartment in Winooski after living out of their van for years. Since our first conversation with Ronni, a lot has happened. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ronni had a heart attack and double bypass surgery, and ended up homeless again due to challenges in their housing caused by a bad relationship.
“I felt more prepared to be homeless this time around because I had Pathways as a support from the start.” They ended up staying at the Champlain Inn and worked with Pathways staff to navigate homelessness and their medical care. Ronni cares for others, sometimes above their own needs. They have spent a large portion of their life advocating for others and often refer to themselves as an on-the-streets volunteer peer specialist. “I had to stop feeling like I was a co-worker on the streets and start realizing that Pathways was as much a resource for me as for other people.” When Ronni had their heart attack, they were in City Hall Park and didn’t want to upset those they were helping; that was an epiphany moment.
“I thought, I need to use my own resources. Katie from Pathways was my resource at that time. She took me to get heart surgery, and she showed up at my hospital bed. Katie said, ‘Pathways is not going to leave you. We are still here even though everything seems like a lot right now; we are still here.’” Ronni moved into their current apartment this past February. When asked what their favorite part of the apartment was, they replied, “My live-in aide, Tim, is my favorite part. I knew when I was housed, I would need help; that is a hard thing to admit. It is difficult to have someone move in with you and see the more vulnerable sides of you, but Tim has become the most meaningful part of my apartment.” Now that they are re-housed and feeling stable, they are looking forward to focusing on themselves and connecting to their community as a community member, not as a resource. Ronni still communicates with Pathways staff, who are a daily part of their life. Ronni looks forward to game nights and other events at the Pathways Vermont Community Center, and appreciates the ease of having access to so much within the community.