For Sarah Ocran, her children are her motivation. They teach her to “grind and grind,” she says and to continue fighting for what she’s been looking for her whole life: housing and love.
A foster youth, Sarah now finds herself in shelter at the age of 24 with her two sons Eli and Serek, ages 4 and 7 months respectively. Sarah found herself homeless when she was pregnant with Serek, a circumstance she describes as “difficult and challenging.”
Because of her foster care upbringing, Sarah and her sons have little-to-no support system. She realized she had nobody to ask for help. She felt alone.
Entering shelter provided little respite for this family of three. They’ve been there for 8 months and face trials and tribulations on a daily basis. Sarah takes Eli to his public charter school in Southeast, a commute of one hour and forty five minutes from the shelter. Sarah is committed to keeping Eli at the school because it has a good reputation and small teacher-to-student ratio. “There are less distractions and my son has been doing very well in school,” she says. This long commute on frequently delayed public transportation sometimes makes her late for work.
Emergency shelter is a far-from-ideal place to live and raise children. The Ocran family is staying in one of the motels that the city uses to house some 730 homeless families during the winter. Sarah describes rat and cockroach infestations and poor ventilation. She says the building is rarely cleaned, and that she and the boys are frequently sick. They’ve had things go missing from their room.
“This place just isn’t a place to raise my kids.”
There is also a curfew in place where the Ocran family is staying. This has limited Sarah’s ability to work, and at times she is unable to get the hours she wants at work because the shelter requires her to be in her room by a certain hour. Otherwise, they’ll be locked out.
But Sarah knows this is all a test of her strength. “Find something to believe in. If you don’t believe in anything, you fall for everything,” she says.
Sarah and her family were referred to THC’s Rapid Re-Housing program and have just been approved to move into an apartment. THC has also helped Sarah pay for her Special Police Officer training, allowing her to find a new and better job.
Unfortunately, the Ocran family’s story is all too common these days in Washington DC. An extreme lack of affordable housing in the city has created a perpetual pattern of homelessness for local families. THC continues to fight this system of inequality by housing and providing comprehensive services for nearly 600 families in the area.
We are proud to work with brave and persistent people like Sarah and her sons as they make transformational changes in their lives.
“My experience with THC has been great…When I first came [to shelter], I was lost, and I thought I was going to be here forever. I came in here with a lot of doubts in myself, but I have come a very long way.”
Sarah, Eli and Serek are set to move into their new apartment next week.