From Homelessness to Independence: Luz’s Journey to Finding a Place to Call Home

On Nov. 20, 2023, Luz D., a 60-year-old woman, received the news that she had been waiting for almost all her life: she was going to move into her own apartment.

“My dream was always to be independent and to someday have a place of my own to call home,” shared Luz. “This is home to me. I’ve been waiting for a long time for this to come to me. To be independent and just the satisfaction of turning my key makes everything real.”

It had been a long journey, filled with hardship and despair, but Luz never gave up hope. This wasn’t just any apartment; it was a testament to her strength.

Luz said the path to this moment hadn’t been easy. Her childhood had been a dark chapter, filled with the threat of abuse at home. At 12, she found the courage to speak up about the abuses of her father. She was separated from her family and her father went to jail. She faced further challenges in foster care, and at 14 she became pregnant after being raped. She was placed in the New York Foundling Hospital where she gave birth to her son.

Yet, even after turning 21 and leaving the foster care system, life remained a struggle. Years of long stays with relatives and friends as a mom and a growing dependence on drugs followed. When she was 53, she reached a low point and ended up sleeping on the streets for two years.

At 55, she went to live with her son and his family. This offered temporary stability, but constant disagreements led her to seek a space of her own. Around this time, Luz enrolled in a Methadone program in the Bronx where she also receives psychiatric services.

Exhausted and desperate, Luz sought refuge at the Department of Homeless Services’ Franklin Women’s Shelter, where she was told her enrollment in a methadone program qualified her for supportive housing.

DHS then transferred her to VIP’s Casa Esperanza women’s shelter where she waited two years to get her own supportive housing apartment. While she patiently waited, she tried to maintain her sobriety.

“I walked through those doors determined to get an apartment,” said Luz, her voice filled with resolve. “I was there for one purpose, and that was to get an apartment and not being on the streets.”

However, a relapse due to a roommate’s influence highlighted the importance of a drug free environment during this phase of her life. With her case manager’s help, she secured a new room at Casa Esperanza, allowing her to focus on her recovery.

Ever since, Luz has remained sober, and takes her methadone medication religiously.

Luz’s determination extended beyond securing housing. She yearned for independence and a chance to build a future. When presented with smaller studio rooms, she politely persisted until she found a one-bedroom unit that met her needs at VIP’s new supportive housing facility – a five-minute walk from Casa Esperanza.

She smiled when she stepped into the doorway of her new home for the first time. “They told me ‘Luz, you are moving in today,’ and that was awesome,” Luz exclaimed. “When I came to the building, I was informed that I was getting a queen-size bed. I also received pots, utensils, and plates. They provided me with mops and a broom to help me settle in.”

VIP’s 1899 Crotona facility provides shelter and round-the-clock residential aides. Clinical staff are available seven days a week from 8 am to 7 pm, with extended hours until 8 pm on two nights, offering tenants like Luz a safety net and a chance to focus on well-being. The convenient location is near a bustling avenue with shops and VIP’s main headquarters.

Luz’s journey isn’t over. Encouraged by VIP’s staff, she connected with VIP’s vocational department to pursue her GED and she took advantage of VIP’s primary care services, learning about our mammogram screenings and receiving a remote blood pressure monitoring tool to use at home.

“I’m so grateful to VIP because they do so much for me,” said Luz. “They helped me with my social security and getting public assistance and other things that I never had in my life.”

“To the people in shelters: Never give up,” urged Luz. “I know it’s easier said than done. Trust in yourself. Believe in yourself. Things will come true. You must make things come true. You really must go out there and take care of business and always have faith that things will work out for you.”

Luz’s story is a testament to the power of resilience.

She reflects on her abuse in childhood, her stint on foster care, her periods of homelessness, to finally finding stability and independence with VIP’s assistance.

“This was worth waiting for every single day,” Luz concluded.