When Lamonika talks about Friendship Place she begins by describing the people there who have helped her: They listen, she says. They ask questions. They give her options. They offer choices. They talk like friends. They treat her with respect.
“I’ve been with Friendship Place for about four years, since I got my housing voucher and out of the city’s shelter program,” says Lamonika. “My case manager helped me settle into my first place, buying cleaning supplies and toiletries and kitchen things. It was wonderful because she gave me the option of where to go–Target or Walmart—and I picked Walmart because I knew I could get things cheaper there. It was my decision.”
Lamonika grew up in the Washington area but says she never had a lot of family support and was largely on her own, raising three children. “My family are more like do it yourself. Everybody keeps to themselves, does for themselves and when help is needed, it’s usually me helping.”
From the beginning, she says, Friendship Place has been like a partner to turn to. “My case manager offers to take me to appointments and errands if I don’t have a way. She gives me options about where to meet and when to go. She makes phone calls on my behalf, to the landlord, the housing authority, to lawyers. She’ll contact me and say, ‘Hey we just got diapers. Can you use them?’ Or like this month, I had to pay a big security deposit, which left little money, and without my even asking she tapped into an emergency fund for me and said, ‘Ms. Lamonika, here’s $75, would that be helpful to you?’ She provides me with metro cards or contacts the homeless liaison at school to make sure my children have their supplies and uniforms. When the holidays come she brings Thanksgiving baskets and Christmas baskets with toys for the kids. She somehow thinks of ways to help before you think of it.”
These days, Lamonika is working her way toward self-sufficiency. “Most times,” she says, “I don’t need help. But when I do it’s great to know she’s there. Even if I just want to call and she’s just talks to me, like a friend, or a therapist, and sometimes that’s all it takes.”