This year, fifteen families experiencing chronic homelessness will be housed for the holidays after several years of living on the streets. These are the families who have just moved into a brand new program called The Keystone- a 15-unit community for families with children, made possible through partnerships with Homes for Good and Lane County. Christina’s family is one of those who recently moved in. She is a single mom of three, two of which are teens.
She jokes about her children, “They both like to roughhouse – I’m ready to get some bubble wrap and wrap them up!” Christina and her family have been living at The Keystone for two months and it has brought a lot of peace to them already, but the change has been hard too. “The transition from being homeless to having a house has been challenging – trying to place rules has been rough with my daughter, but she’s starting to adjust to things…having a structured routine and a stable home has been working really well for her,” she says.
Achieving housing stability hasn’t been an easy road for Christina. She has had to overcome many obstacles to get here, beginning when she was a kid growing up here in Lane County, “growing up was challenging – my mom worked and went to school, so I was left alone – just me and my sister – a lot. My mom eventually married her third husband who was…very rigid, so I ran away and got pregnant at 14.”
Christina describes how she learned to cope with the emotional distress she was experiencing, “I buried my pain in drugs instead of resolving and facing it. It was a lot of stuff from my childhood that I buried. I didn’t have a good upbringing, my mom was always gone.” She wants to be present for her kids and learn from her experiences, “There was no motherly love or affection, so that’s how I’m trying not to be. I’m trying to be more motherly.”
Chelsea Sjostrom is Christina’s case manager, and she mentions how many of the parents she works with are very different from the community assumptions around homelessness, “there are people here who’ve been chronically homeless and don’t fit the stereotypical ‘worthless drug addicts.’ There’s so much backlash for the unhoused.”
“Knowing you have stable, affordable housing means you can finally unpack all the other baggage happening in your life.” – Chelsea Sjostrom
It’s case managers like Chelsea that give program participants at The Keystone, and other Permanent Supported Housing communities, the opportunity to reach their greatest level of independence and resilience. “She’s gotten me to look at life differently. She’s so positive – I could feel like I’m experiencing the worst thing in the world and she’d be able to tell me ‘Everything’s fine, we’ll figure it out,’” explains Christina.
Support services like case management, Housing Specialists, and Peer Support Specialists are what make Permanent Supported Housing locations, like The Keystone, so successful at transitioning people from chronic homelessness to independent housing. This type of program has been successful across the country, “The Keystone is such an incredible program and there needs to be so many more,” Chelsea says.
Christina’s is a story of perseverance and success, “I had my children and got my life cleaned up. I’ve had my ups and downs, but it’s been 4 years now! I can’t say it’s easy, my children drive me bonkers, but I look at where I was, and what I have now feels so valuable. My sickness is still there, but I can say I’m sober and I’m here.”