One Year, Two Shelters and Five Children

In December of 2019, Ms. Trenisha James' unit in her housing development was deemed “unfit for human habitation,” with a CO2 leak being the headliner on a list of safety issues that made it necessary for her family to leave their home.

Unfortunately, that led to a lawsuit with the landlord, which ultimately was found in James' favor; however, the court findings were written in such a way that future renting became difficult. Add to that the loss of her escrow because she moved out early, and James and her five children soon found themselves homeless.

They sought shelter in the Kennedy Short Term Family Housing program, which provides emergency and temporary housing for families experiencing homelessness. During that time, they were referred to Boys Town Washington DC for assistance.

“The James family was referred through the oldest child's school, which at the time was KIPP Quest Elementary School. I work with the attendance team there and they will send us referrals,” said Chelsey Perkins, Care Coordination Consultant at Boys Town Washington DC.  

While living in the shelter, James found it difficult to secure new living arrangements. Several apartments turned her down because she had “too many children." She was shifted from case manager to case manager within the shelter system. And eventually had to move to a different shelter.

James began to worry about her ability to find a new home for her children.

“Ms. Chelsey jumped right into advocating for me when it came to finding housing that would accept five children. She did the utmost for me, including finding new housing possibilities and setting up appointments for me to view them. She was phenomenal from the beginning,” said James.

James struggled with Multiple Sclerosis during the housing search, which put her in the hospital for a short time. “MS inhibits some of my speech and Ms. Chelsey helped me with my anxiety. She was very understanding and resourceful," said James.

As finding a new home for her family became more of a reality, James joined the DC Central Food Kitchen Program. She began working on her culinary skills since she had often worked in restaurants.

She recently graduated from the program at the top of her class, receiving three awards: highest GPA, life skills award and sunshine award. Though the pandemic has made it hard to secure employment at this time, James is hopeful that her graduation will eventually lead to a good job.

In January of 2020, the James family was finally able to move into their new home.

“Ms. Chelsey has helped our family with so many things. From school supplies to virtual summer camps, furniture, clothing, diapers and gas cards, the resources she's been able to provide have been phenomenal," said James. “If it wasn't for her, I don't think I could have made it this far.”

And the admiration seems to go both ways. “I have had many years working in the mental health and case management services field and Ms. James' tenacity, dedication to her family, and hard work were nothing less than awe-inspiring to me," said Perkins. “I believe that if we had more Ms. Jameses in this world, it would be a better place.”