In April of 2012, Charmaine Walton wrote a guest blog for us with a simple, straightforward plea: “Help me get affordable housing.” Charmaine’s story is one of strength, perseverance in the face of enormous challenge, and ultimately, of hope. With assistance from the Legal Clinic and thanks to a housing voucher through the Local Rent Supplement Program, Charmaine and her daughter Morgan were able to move into their own apartment in March of 2013.
We recently caught up with Charmaine and asked her to share what she and her daughter are most thankful for this Thanksgiving:
Last week, my daughter Morgan and I made chili together in our kitchen. That doesn’t sound very exciting, or like something to build a story around, but just over a year and a half ago, it was something I could only dream about. Morgan was in charge of adding the onions, grilled hamburger meat, and the tomatoes to the crock pot. She helped me stir, and I taught her the secret ingredient: sugar. Morgan doesn’t even like onions, but she ate so much of that chili because she took pride in making it.
That pride in my daughter’s eyes is worth everything we’ve had to go through to get here. When we were in shelter, it was a struggle to protect Morgan from everything we were facing. I remember traveling across town, taking three different buses to get her to school each day, and sitting outside the school all day waiting for her to get out. It was important to me that she never miss a day of school, but I didn’t have the energy to make that travel more than twice a day. My body wasn’t strong enough because of a lack of proper nutrition. I had nowhere to cook wholesome meals.
I remember my dream for Morgan to have a stable roof over her head, and a bedroom to call her own. It’s what kept me fighting when I was at my lowest and my health was deteriorating. I’m so thankful that my daughter and I have a home now. I ask Morgan how she feels about it, and she says, “it’s nice and warm.”
Every child deserves a nice and warm home. Children are not supposed to move around so much. When my daughter is older, I want her to be able to look back and say, “this is where I grew up,” not, “these are all the different places I grew up.” DC is my home and has been since birth. I want it to be my daughter’s home, too. My home is changing, but sadly, it’s not changing to help everyone. People need to stop believing this myth that poor people just want someone to take care of them.
I woke up one day and learned I had Multiple Sclerosis. I didn’t plan it, and it’s changed my life. Now, I’m rebuilding, and my struggle is not over. My apartment needs major repairs and my landlord isn’t always responsive. Even though having a home has helped me focus on my own health, I still have setbacks. I’m in school now, studying for an applied sciences degree because I want to be a nurse, but I also need to provide for my daughter now, so I’m job hunting. The thing is, I know it’s all going to be ok, because at least I have a roof over my head.
I’m thankful, because I have lights to turn on, and they work! I’m thankful that I have a place to wash clothes! I’m thankful we’re warm. And I’m thankful that this holiday season, Morgan and I can decorate our apartment and sit back and relax. That my daughter is happy because her mom can cook for her all day.
I’m also grateful for the opportunity to give back to my community, to help others by sharing my experience. I want an outlet where I can talk to everyday people and to DC government leaders about the challenges that families are facing — about access to better education and to affordable housing.
I’m thankful for my voice. And I plan to keep using it.
The Legal Clinic is thankful for Charmaine and for all of our inspiring clients who remind us on a daily basis why we must continue the fight for justice. We also want to extend a special thank you to our volunteers whose dedication of time and talent assures that our clients get the most effective representation, to our board members who work diligently to get us the resources we need to do our work, and to our donors, whose generosity makes our work possible.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!