Wessena's Story

When D.C.-native Wessena Russell was four years old, she was in a near-fatal five-alarm house fire that left her with second- and third-degree burns over much of her body. She was taken from her biological family and placed in foster care. “With the grace of God,” she says, “I survived the fire and was given two loving foster parents where I resided until I aged out at 21.”

Shortly after that, she lost her job and became homeless. To survive, she moved from couch to couch with friends and family until she was awakened at 4 a.m. by an argument where the man of the house was brandishing a shot gun.

With a referral, Wessena sought refuge at the Patricia Handy Place for Women shelter. Her priority was to find shelter in a safe environment and get help accessing the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

“For as long as I can remember I’ve been suffering with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she says. “N Street Village and Patricia Handy Place for Women gave me the courage to get back on my feet and to believe that I can survive living in a home by myself.”

“Ms. Russell is more than a conqueror,” says Rhonda Norris, Case Manager at Capitol Vista apartments. “She always finds a way to see the positive in her journey through life. Many obstacles have come and gone, but Ms. Russell has navigated through them all.”

Today, Wessena is a permanent supportive housing resident at Capitol Vista and works part-time. “My hope for the future is to get back into steady employment that will secure my finances and independence.”

My hope for the future is to get back into steady employment that will secure my finances and independence.

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