Her ready smile and confident appearance mask a lifetime of uncertainty for Patience, a resident at St. Barnabas Apartments. Now 20, in school, holding down a good job and supported by extended family and friends, she talks freely about her homelessness without being overcome by sadness.
"My home here has brought me stability," Patience explains. Transience was the hallmark of her childhood home experience-shuttled between shelters, family and friends-until at 17, when she was kicked out of her mother's home for the last time and she moved in with her father. But life with dad was short-lived. After graduation, she moved in with friends, relied on cousins and was back on-again and off-again with her mother. "Things were difficult," she says, "and St. Barnabas was the only option left."
At first, life at St. Barnabas wasn't appealing. "Check-in? Be accountable? Live in a place where everyone knows your business? I didn't want that." But her need for an affordable roof over her head won out.
The staff warmly welcomed her. "They met me at the door and said, 'Come on in!' Do you know what it's like to hear that for the first time?" she asked. "It felt so good to have a door open when so many were closed." After a couple of months she became comfortable with the new routine of life. Feeling a part of the place, she began to pitch in wherever she could, helping the staff with a variety of projects and eventually claiming her apartment as her home and carrying herself with a new sense of ownership and pride.
"I was always so ashamed to bring friends into wherever I lived. Now, I've got a place to host them. And," she adds, "I live more confidently." Today, home is where Patience relaxes without worry, where life is familiar and where the comforts of home-hard won-are hers.