Home >> Blog
What is the secret?
July 19, 2013

I sat across from Lisa in the privacy of my office. It was nearing her 60-day deadline in the Families Moving Forward program – families have 60 days in which to work with us to find housing and a source of income.

Lisa had found a job, lost a job, found an apartment, lost the chance to get the apartment, found daycare for her five-year-old, and lost daycare. The cycle was chipping away at her hope for success.

Tears streamed down her face. She said her old landlord was horrible and had wanted her and her five-year-old out. That was six months ago. She said her child’s father kept making promises and hadn’t kept his word on any of them. That started four years ago. Her family lived out of town and no one was willing to come visit her or give her money. The negative talk was consuming her mentally and emotionally and serious signs of self-defeat were becoming the norm.

“What’s the secret?” she asked between sobs. The previous day, Lisa had watched a family move out into housing after 64 days in shelter. She wanted to know what the secret was to making it out successfully. Again and again she ran through the list of problems she'd faced and was currently facing. I sat beside her and listened. Every time she ran through the list once more, I listened. I know that’s part of the secret. Listening. Being there. After a moment of internal searching for how I could offer Lisa some comfort, support and hope, I stated as honestly as I could, “There’s no real secret, but if there is to be one…if any…it begins with a mindset.”

Rejection is discouraging, I told her. Living in a shelter, we are faced with more “nos” than “yeses.” Families are thrown obstacles that many of us are fortunate not to encounter in our daily lives. Homelessness is difficult, a daily, agonizing predicament, I acknowledged to Lisa. Yet the key is to refuse to let the negativity of your world consume you. The secret is to maintain a mindset of constant hope and then to work hard with the Families Moving Forward team that’s there to support you.

Lisa looked at me, replying that it’s not that simple.

I agree. It’s not simple, but if there is a secret, the secret is that when you walk through the doors of Families Moving Forward, you hold the door for hope to walk in first.

Mai Choua Yang
Mai Choua is a family advocate with Families Moving Forward.