April 19, 2023
Homeless and scared, Dominique Douglas came to the RPC’s Emergency Shelter for Families (ESF) in desperate need for help. As her new case manager, I thought a move from the ESF to Maple Grove transitional housing would be an exciting thing for Dominique. Instead, she broke down in tears at her first intake appointment.
“I don’t know what I want to do in my life,” she admitted to me. “I can’t pay rent and I’m scared.” To give her time, I made the decision to cut our first meeting short that day, saying only, “I got you.” Dominique would later tell me about her journey, which has now led her to being the RPC’s 2023 Families of Distinction honoree.
Growing up in an abusive household, Dominique was offered no guidance and no support. “Nobody ever told me, ‘Good job.’ I never heard praise. I never had anyone support me. I never knew what that was,” she revealed. She later had two children of her own and vowed she would be a good mother and always support her children. Life was going okay for Dominique until she lost her job and lost her housing, which led to her to being literally homeless and sleeping in her car.
Dominique bravely came to the ESF with her children, where they were provided with safe housing. “It was one of the scariest days of my life,” she admits. “Transferring to Maple Grove and getting a new case manager was even scarier.”
Dominique continued struggling to find her way. Being unemployed, not knowing what she wanted to do, and failing to pay rent at Maple Grove was seemingly pushing her into a downward spiral. But I saw potential in her. I saw her strengths. I did not want to give up on her.
I continued reaching out to Dominique while empowering and challenging her. We reviewed ideas for employment planning and searching. I referred her to counseling and to the East Central Illinois workNet Center for further Workforce Development opportunities. The RPC assisted Dominique through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), while our shelter case manager assisted her with obtaining vital documents needed to move on to housing.
Every day I hoped that Dominique would pick herself up and see what we all saw in her. It finally happened. She made the decision to become re-certified as a pharmacy technician and got a good job at a local pharmacy. She began budgeting with her case manager and worked on a payment plan with the Maple Grove property manager, eventually catching up totally on her rent. She attends church and volunteers working with a youth group.
I’m happy to report that Dominique is now studying to be a senior pharmacy tech and is ready for her next move into permanent housing. To say that RPC staff is proud of Dominique’s accomplishments would be an understatement.
“You saved my life,” she says. “The RPC gave me grace, encouraged me, and showed me the kind of support I had never received in my life before. I am so grateful. I now know that there will be ups and downs in life, but I know how to pick myself up and keep moving forward positively. I know I can do this.”
Dominique Douglas continues working hard at her goals and is an excellent representative of the Families of Distinction program. She was one of 19 individuals or families honored at the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA) Annual Learning Conference in April. The honor recognizes a family or individual who has overcome great personal and social obstacles in their pursuit of self-sufficiency with the assistance of a Community Action Agency.