What’s It Like to Go from Living in a Shelter to Your Own Apartment?

By Jane Bishop 

You may remember Johnny, a Mongolian immigrant, and Participant served by the Arlington office. We highlighted his success as an English-language learner who graduated from graduated from the Arlington Education & Employment Plan (REEP), which provides English classes to adults in Arlington. Instruction at REEP integrates language, U.S, culture, digital literacy, community involvement, and workforce preparedness into all courses. SMGW underwrote his registration fee, while the Arlington shelter provided the technology and a quiet place to study. 

Johnny’s STRIVE Graduation!

And now after more than a year of staying in the shelter, Johnny has gotten a subsidized studio apartment in the Ballston area. And how is it different from the shelter? 

· On the 11th floor of a new building, there is a great view. 

· The apartment is so quiet – and so empty! 

Johnny has a minimum wage full-time job that helps him stay afloat day-to-day but how can he furnish the apartment – and make it work for him? 

First of all, let me say, Johnny is so happy to be where he is – and he is making it work, without an attic and newly designated “extra” stuff. The Arlington office provided some towels and wash cloths, a sleeping bag, toiletries and cleaning supplies, coat hangers, and some food from the mini-mart. And he was so grateful. 

Part of becoming independent is learning how not to be dependent. As his Caseworker, I asked Johnny to really think hard about what he really needed and to make lists: what he needs first and would like to be new, what he thinks he can get at a thrift store, and what would be nice but can wait. Basically a list of Next Steps. 

Then as part of the celebration of his new place, we went shopping together digitally. Because there are some funds available for this purpose (thank you, donors!), Johnny chose: a table with four chairs, a mattress, and a bed frame. They will be ordered and delivered directly to his new place. 

Life is challenging for us all, but right now there is one more person who is safe, dry, warm, soon not sleeping on the floor, and oh-so-happy and grateful. Thanks be to God!