“Candy,” a woman whose hair was slicked back into meticulous braids, gave off a guarded air. Her eyes were brown and hesitant, a behavior not innate, but learned. As office manager, Candy presides over Project Home, a local Philadelphia nonprofit which provides services to the homeless. A domestic violence survivor, Candy said she was physically abused at age six, raped at age 12, and had an abortion by age 16. The violence of her younger years didn’t dissipate as a decade later her husband became her abuser.
“I endured cheating, physical abuse, and you know started drinking and before I knew it got into a whirlwind circle and I became an active addict,” Candy said. “I was very depressed and didn’t know how to deal with the issues I was having.”
To make sure her children were raised by both of their parents, Candy stomached the abusive nature of her spouse. She said the psychological trauma led her to become an alcoholic. The state later deemed her unfit to take care of her children, assigning custody to family members. Homelessness became a byproduct of this situation.
Project Home transformed her former pain into purpose and equipped her with the resources to transition from homeless to a homeowner.
She received assistance overcoming addiction, the pain left by the abuse, and the loss of her children. Her experience was not anomalous at Project Home, in fact, a majority of the calls they receive are from single mothers who were abused some time in their lifetime. Project Home provides assistance in obtaining affordable housing, employment opportunities, adult and youth education, as well as health care.
Candy reaches out to homeless individuals who were also victims of domestic abuse, using her similar background to connect with them in a way other employees could not. After 13 years, Candy has witnessed a multitude of cases pertaining to domestic violence.
In one instance, an unnamed mother of three, had come in thinking suicide was her only option. A victim of domestic violence, her faith in others had deteriorated. Due to the earnest assurances of Candy, the woman ultimately accepted assistance from Project Home and is now off the streets and a homeowner.
“The work that you do has to be from the heart and you have to have a real understanding and appreciation just for life and for people. I was able to give her hope that there is a brighter day and that’s not the end for her,” Candy said, “When you can actually connect with someone and make a difference in their life, that is one of the most gratifying moments.”