Person First Project is a photo blog that seeks to give those currently or formerly experiencing homelessness in D.C. the chance to share their stories. In doing this, we hope to reduce the barriers that separate people in D.C. and spark a dialogue. The Person First Project aims to connect us – and to make us all feel a bit more human.
“I’ve been living here at Open Arms for a little over a year – and it’s been great. The staff at Open Arms are really, really great ladies. I was diagnosed with depression and stress. They really, really helped me out. I feel better about myself. I feel more independent. I can relax and not have to look over my shoulder about anything.
My happiest memory was traveling with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. I was working security at the DC Armory, and I came home from my security job and told my mom, ‘I’m going away with the circus.’ She said, ‘Girl you’re not going anywhere!’ I was in my late 20s. I said, ‘Yes I am!’ and started packing my bags. She said, ‘She’ll be back tomorrow.’ The next time I called my mom I was in Roanoke, Virginia. I’m from DC; I was born and raised in DC General. She was surprised that I had really left.
I traveled with them for three years, from 2000 to 2003. I was assistant animal trainer and animal caretaker. I took care of the elephants, the tigers, alpacas, all sorts of animals… the horses, everything. I had hands-on with all the animals. The elephants were my favorite. One elephant in particular… her name was Ciam. When I took a vacation she missed me, and when I came back she hollered and tooted her trumpet. I used to feed her by hand and give her sodas. She loved sodas.”
*Stacy lives at Open Arms Housing: The Mission of Open Arms Housing, Inc. is to provide permanent homes with a welcoming and supportive environment to women who are homeless with a variety of mental health issues. Our goal is to create safe, comfortable housing tailored to meet individual needs and to promote housing stability, using a Housing First approach.