Homeless Mom's Will To Change Brings New Life/DC Covenant House

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 28 Nov 1998 02:12:14 -0400


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-11/25/090l-112598-idx.html
FWD  Washington Post - Wednesday, November 25, 1998; Page B01


WOMAN'S WILL TO CHANGE BRINGS NEW LIFE

By Courtland Milloy


When I met Jovania Phillips in February, she was pregnant, homeless and
very afraid. She had been living in a car parked alongside a road in Rock
Creek Park with her two children, ages 1 and 3, and didn't have anything to
eat.

I saw Phillips again on Monday at Covenant House Washington in Southeast,
where executive director Vincent C. Gray and Kisha Bowser, director of
service management, had been working with her for the past nine months.

Phillips had delivered a healthy baby boy, earned a general equivalency
diploma, received an award for "most changed attitude," gotten a job and
moved into a two-bedroom apartment. She is now making plans to get married
next month.

"Things are going better, much better, 100 percent better," said Phillips,
who is 21.

If someone in as dire straits as Phillips could make such an amazing
transformation in such a short time, then it seemed to me that many more
also could be saved. The question was, how had she done it? The answer was,
with willingness -- and a lot of help.

"I had to learn how to be patient and how to work hard for what I wanted,"
Phillips said. "I learned that things don't come easy, but with hard work
and the right attitude, things do get better."

But first, she had to hit what some might call an emotional bottom; she
simply had to give up trying to do things her way.

That moment appears to have come around Feb. 7, after spending yet another
night cramped up with her children in a 1982 Renault. At the end of her
rope, she finally reached out to Bread for the City and Zacchaeus Free
Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothes and medical
assistance to the poor while treating them with dignity and respect.

As word spread about Phillips's plight, scores of Washington area residents
donated more food and clothes to the family. A dynamic group of African
American women, called Sisters in Touch, put them up in a motel, started a
bank account for them and tried to offer Jovania Phillips the kind of tough
love befitting a sister in need.

But Phillips was a hard case. Like so many people who get stuck on the
bottom rungs of society, her survival skills put a premium on cynicism and
self-centeredness, not trust and cooperation.

What she needed more than a big sister was a new way of life.

"What we offered was a programmatic, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week response to
her needs," Gray said of Covenant House, which helps young people work
their way out of poverty. "She needed fundamental restructuring of her
life, so that she could have choices available to her and an understanding
of how to make mature choices."

Phillips was admitted into the Covenant House respite center, where she
began receiving prenatal care and her children were given the care they
needed. Once she was "stabilized," and able to look beyond her immediate
needs, an intensive reeducation program began.

"The first thing I focused on was building a relationship with her," said
Bowser, who was Phillips's service manager. "It wasn't just about providing
services. I gave her unconditional love and respect."

Phillips and Bowser began working on an assessment of her personal needs
and goals and came up with a development plan. They agreed that Bowser
would coordinate services for her and serve as an advocate for her, while
Phillips would work to meet those needs and goals.

By August, Phillips had completed her high school equivalency degree. With
her children looking on, she was called to the stage to receive an award
for having the greatest change in attitude. And the children were presented
with awards for having perfect attendance in day care.

Phillips went on to get a job answering the telephone and making
appointments for a local private investigative agency. She then moved into
an apartment in Southwest, where she lives with her children and the father
of the youngest baby. They plan to be married by Christmas.

"Last year was such a terrible year for me that I didn't even have a
Christmas, and my first thought after getting a job and the apartment was
to go out and buy my children all of the things that they had missed out
on," Phillips said.

But she decided not to do that.

"I realize the hard times are not over yet, and I should try to save some
money and pay some bills and not go overboard buying stuff," she said.

One thing that she has purchased is stationery.

"A lot of people came through for us, and I want to send them thank-you
notes," she said.

Moreover, she added, she has been thinking a lot lately about those nights
that she and her babies spent in that car, with the windows rolled up and
engine running to keep warm. To show gratitude for deliverance from that,
she gets down on her knees.

"I don't have to worry about where we will sleep or where the next meal is
coming from," she said with a smile. "I'm just happy to be alive."

END FORWARD
-
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
ARCHIVES  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN
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3,000+ posts by or via homeless & ex-homeless people

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-11/25/090l-112598-idx.html

FWD  Washington Post - Wednesday, November 25, 1998; Page B01



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>WOMAN'S WILL TO CHANGE BRINGS NEW
LIFE


By Courtland Milloy

</paraindent>


When I met Jovania Phillips in February, she was pregnant, homeless and
very afraid. She had been living in a car parked alongside a road in
Rock Creek Park with her two children, ages 1 and 3, and didn't have
anything to eat.


I saw Phillips again on Monday at Covenant House Washington in
Southeast, where executive director Vincent C. Gray and Kisha Bowser,
director of service management, had been working with her for the past
nine months.


Phillips had delivered a healthy baby boy, earned a general equivalency
diploma, received an award for "most changed attitude," gotten a job
and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. She is now making plans to get
married next month.


"Things are going better, much better, 100 percent better," said
Phillips, who is 21.


If someone in as dire straits as Phillips could make such an amazing
transformation in such a short time, then it seemed to me that many
more also could be saved. The question was, how had she done it? The
answer was, with willingness -- and a lot of help.


"I had to learn how to be patient and how to work hard for what I
wanted," Phillips said. "I learned that things don't come easy, but
with hard work and the right attitude, things do get better."


But first, she had to hit what some might call an emotional bottom; she
simply had to give up trying to do things her way.


That moment appears to have come around Feb. 7, after spending yet
another night cramped up with her children in a 1982 Renault. At the
end of her rope, she finally reached out to Bread for the City and
Zacchaeus Free Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides food,
clothes and medical assistance to the poor while treating them with
dignity and respect.


As word spread about Phillips's plight, scores of Washington area
residents donated more food and clothes to the family. A dynamic group
of African American women, called Sisters in Touch, put them up in a
motel, started a bank account for them and tried to offer Jovania
Phillips the kind of tough love befitting a sister in need.


But Phillips was a hard case. Like so many people who get stuck on the
bottom rungs of society, her survival skills put a premium on cynicism
and self-centeredness, not trust and cooperation.


What she needed more than a big sister was a new way of life.


"What we offered was a programmatic, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week response
to her needs," Gray said of Covenant House, which helps young people
work their way out of poverty. "She needed fundamental restructuring of
her life, so that she could have choices available to her and an
understanding of how to make mature choices."


Phillips was admitted into the Covenant House respite center, where she
began receiving prenatal care and her children were given the care they
needed. Once she was "stabilized," and able to look beyond her
immediate needs, an intensive reeducation program began.


"The first thing I focused on was building a relationship with her,"
said Bowser, who was Phillips's service manager. "It wasn't just about
providing services. I gave her unconditional love and respect."


Phillips and Bowser began working on an assessment of her personal
needs and goals and came up with a development plan. They agreed that
Bowser would coordinate services for her and serve as an advocate for
her, while Phillips would work to meet those needs and goals.


By August, Phillips had completed her high school equivalency degree.
With her children looking on, she was called to the stage to receive an
award for having the greatest change in attitude. And the children were
presented with awards for having perfect attendance in day care.


Phillips went on to get a job answering the telephone and making
appointments for a local private investigative agency. She then moved
into an apartment in Southwest, where she lives with her children and
the father of the youngest baby. They plan to be married by Christmas.


"Last year was such a terrible year for me that I didn't even have a
Christmas, and my first thought after getting a job and the apartment
was to go out and buy my children all of the things that they had
missed out on," Phillips said.


But she decided not to do that.


"I realize the hard times are not over yet, and I should try to save
some money and pay some bills and not go overboard buying stuff," she
said.


One thing that she has purchased is stationery.


"A lot of people came through for us, and I want to send them thank-you
notes," she said.


Moreover, she added, she has been thinking a lot lately about those
nights that she and her babies spent in that car, with the windows
rolled up and engine running to keep warm. To show gratitude for
deliverance from that, she gets down on her knees.


"I don't have to worry about where we will sleep or where the next meal
is coming from," she said with a smile. "I'm just happy to be alive."


END FORWARD

-

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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