From the beginning of her time in Vermont in 2008, Victoria lacked housing stability. Victoria arrived when she was 16. What was expected to be a short visit turned into a permanent move away from friends and all that was familiar. With that abrupt move, Victoria had difficulty adjusting to everything, including school. “I was more into the party life and just didn’t care. I was being belligerent. My first three weeks in school, I left in handcuffs; I was just ripped away from family and everything I ever knew, and I struggled to care about school.” From there, her difficulties grew. Victoria was arrested for the first time at the age of 17 and then again at 19. The next nine years of her life revolved around alcohol and substance use, depression, anxiety, abusive relationships, short periods of incarceration, and involvement in transitional corrections programs. Victoria has four children. Her three older children, born during those tumultuous years, are not with her full-time. She’s filled with emotion as she speaks of her efforts to maintain custody and visitation with them. She acknowledges making choices she would change during that time, but with no network of support and an institutional system that she felt failed her repeatedly, it was a painful period of her life to reflect on.
In the spring of 2020, Victoria ended up at the Marriott in Middlebury, the first of four hotels she would live in over the next two years. During this time, she connected with Dave, a Housing First Service Coordinator from Pathways Vermont. Dave helped Victoria with daily living, including taking her to all of her doctor’s appointments. At one such medical appointment, Victoria learned she was pregnant with her fourth child. Dave introduced Victoria to Desiree, a Pathways Vermont Housing Coordinator whose job it is to connect folks with apartments. After several organizations set out to help her yet never found her housing, Victoria was skeptical and ready to be disappointed. Desiree told Victoria she would not stop until she found Victoria’s housing. “Okay, but I don’t believe you. I have been told I will get housing, and it doesn’t happen. Until I see progress, I won’t believe anything anyone tells me. I felt so overloaded with emotions. Living in a hotel with a baby alone is a ridiculous amount of stress.”
Desiree shared her own story with Victoria, and they formed a close relationship, which helped Victoria start to trust her and the process of finding permanent housing. After a long search, Victoria moved into her new apartment on June 1, 2022. The apartment is still new, so Victoria is getting used to it. “Having housing is way less stressful, not being afraid of when the next meal will come or if my son and I will have a place to stay at night.” Victoria has a good relationship with her landlord and is finally feeling more settled. “Desiree came into my life and didn’t stop until she found me housing and has helped since; I have had more success with Pathways than any other organization.” Since finding her apartment, Victoria has finished high school and is in a job training role at the Parent-Child Center down the street from her home, where her son attends daycare. It has been a long and frustrating journey to housing, but now Victoria finally has stable housing and can focus on her future. She hopes to eventually move closer to her son’s grandparents and would like to find work in an administrative role that she enjoys.