Julia's Story

 

Person wearing a face masks crosses arms and looks at the camera

You wouldn’t have recognized me five years ago. I was living in transitional housing after finally getting the recovery support I needed. Getting off the streets was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Once stable, I decided that I wanted to give back to the programs and services that helped me move forward.

I started at Transition Projects as an on-call residential advocate working the graveyard shift in one of the agency’s shelters here in Portland. I remember walking in my first day after years of struggling with addiction, mental health, and physical health issues.

The feeling of accomplishment was so large. Little did I know that walking through those doors that first day would give me a career and change my life forever.

Five years later, I’m managing a shelter, supporting a team, and helping people who once stood where I did get back on their feet. It truly feels surreal to be here.

My journey wasn’t always easy, but I always felt supported by a community of people invested in my personal and professional growth. After two years as a residential advocate, I moved into a peer health navigator role. Team members in these positions help program participants meet their health and wellness goals. In this role, I felt like I really made an impact in people’s lives.

I could tell them, “I understand what you’re going through. I’ve been there, too.”

Around this time, I had the opportunity to participate in the Mentor Program, a structured professional development program aimed at helping individuals with lived experience of homelessness succeed and thrive at Transition Projects. The Mentor Program was transformational and geared me up for success in my next role. After completing the program, I received my state-certified Peer Support Specialist credential. This allowed me to qualify for a new role with one of our peer agencies to gain case management experience.

I returned to Transition Projects in 2018 to open a new shelter for those with nowhere else to turn. Since then, I have moved into a permanent role managing an overnight shelter program. Each day, I get to walk side by side with participants to help them pursue a new future.

It feels incredible to be part of someone else’s “magic” and help them achieve what was once elusive for me – housing, stability, and a future filled with promise.