Only a few years ago, the trajectory of the lives of Ronald and Felicia seemed headed toward separation and life-long struggle. The story of Ronald, a single dad, and his daughter, Felicia, is all too familiar for providers who work to ensure that Keeping Families Together supportive housing – the model championed through the One Roof campaign – is successful. Theirs was a family plagued by substance abuse, the instability of chronic homelessness and repeat involvement with the child welfare system. Like so many who are eventually saved by supportive housing, everything at first seemed destined to separate Ronald and Felicia. Obstacles, not opportunity, ruled their lives.
Child welfare involvement for Felicia began very early in her life because of outstanding cases involving her mother’s other children. As s single dad, Ronald fought hard to maintain employment, even while living in shelters, so he and Felicia could one day reunify in a home of their own. But his ability to find and keep affordable housing was an uphill battle.
Prior to supportive housing, they were homeless and living in the shelter system for nearly two years. Ronald’s heavy marijuana use led to further investigations and actions by the Administration for Children’s Services. The timeline of their struggles reflects the hardships they endured. Born in 1998, Felicia spent a total of 610 days of her young life in shelter care and another 585 in foster care. Understandably, she struggled with behavioral health challenges.
When Felicia was eight years old, she and Ronald caught a break and moved into supportive housing through the Keeping Families Together program, a signature effort pioneered by CSH and generously funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Ronald struggled with relapse and recovery, but intensive case management relying on constructive coordination between his supportive housing case manager and child welfare personnel helped him maintain his ability to parent.
With assistance and persistence, he found employment and started building a new life for himself and his daughter.
Now Felicia is a young woman in college, and Ronald is a highly involved parent. He is balancing fatherhood and work, and Felicia’s primary and behavioral health issues are being addressed.
This past April, Ronald and Felicia appeared before a Congressional briefing to tell their stories. They conveyed how drastically their lives have changed and how important it is to create more options for families dealing with multiple challenges, and how supportive housing can keep families together in an environment that stresses solutions rather than separation.
As they grow together toward a brighter future, Ronald credits the opportunity he found in supportive housing for the triumph of his family over obstacles that once seemed so daunting. Skeptical at first about Keeping Families Together supportive housing, Ronald and Felicia are now proud and vocal supporters of it and the One Roof campaign to increase its availability across the country.
Keeping Families Together would not have been possible without the investment of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health.
Since 1972, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported research and programs targeting some of America’s most pressing health issues, from substance abuse to improving access to quality health care.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to build a national Culture of Health. Their goal is to help raise the health of everyone in the United States by placing well-being at the center of every aspect of life.
Although they have witnessed great progress, they also have noticed our nation has worked to improve health by focusing primarily on the health care system—when in fact, health is influenced significantly by where we live, learn, work and play.