Southeast resident Quanay Lynch is on the path to overcoming the throes of domestic violence and homelessness. By telling her story, Lynch hopes to let others know that it is possible to rebound from the trauma of domestic violence and the horror of homelessness. Although her journey is not complete, Lynch maintains high ambitions of joining the ranks of the middle-class.
“Things got bad in 2018 when (Lynch’s boyfriend and the father of her children) started dabbling with drugs at parties,” she says. “He was the breadwinner for our family. The problem became out of control when he would do drugs for two and three days straight and then start to miss work. He went from verbal abuse saying things like ‘you don’t work. Shut up! You can’t tell me nothing’ even though we had agreed that I would stay at home with the children, to some serious physical abuse. It ended with him chasing me, the kids and his mother out of the home (while brandishing a weapon),” said Lynch who did not want to disclose his name.
From Nuclear Family to A Shelter
Lynch, as the popular saying goes, is “on the come up!” Her situation and standard of living is improving—albeit slower than she would like. Since January, she has been living in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in the Douglass Knoll Apartments in the Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8.
After narrowly making her escape from the deadly assault, Lynch and the children went to House of Ruth, the empowerment nonprofit franchise founded in 1976 for women, children and families in need of rebuilding their lives and healing from trauma, abuse and homelessness (houseofruth.org). This facility is close to her present residency.
According to Elizabeth Kiker, the Chief Development Office at the House of Ruth in Washington, DC, there was an increase of approximately 44 percent in calls and requests during the pandemic for housing and therapy. She said that 87 percent of families and single women who participated in their programs for one year were eventually able to secure and sustain stable housing.
Lynch, 36, was determined to reunite her family. She checked herself and the kids out of the House of Ruth against the wishes of the counselors after being at the haven for eight months. She returned to her boyfriend after he spent three months in rehab and promised her a fresh start. The family moved into an apartment together for about six months until they were evicted after the children’s dad started using drugs again and the abusive cycle began again.
The now fully-confirmed single-mother of three—Khloe, 9, Kenneth, 8, and four-year-old Kendrick, was forced to relocate into a shelter managed and operated by the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (VWFRC) (community-partnership.org). It is the processing center in the District for families, adults 24 and older and youth under 24 facing homelessness. Single fathers with their children live there too.
VWFRC (920-A Rhode Island Ave. NE), operates in partnership with the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) and in alliance with The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, which also provides resources for its clients. One of those resources turned out to be Case Management and Employment Supervisor Danyell Ball.
“Ms. Lynch was a great client, very communicative and participated in case management. She was a model client,” said Ball who works for the Sterling Short Term Family Housing Program.
Lynch in turn thanks Ms. Ball for her ceaseless encouragement and finding her current residence that is just walking distance to the Giants grocery store on Alabama Avenue.
“My children and I like living here. We have no complaints. I know that some people may have problems with the area, but we are good,” Lynch said.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the District had an estimated 6,380 residents experiencing homelessness in January 2020 as reported by the Continuums of Care. There were 767 family households in that total and 1,452 chronic homeless individuals. The rest were veterans and unaccompanied young adults.
“Mother to Son” is the famous Langston Hughes poem, composed 99 years ago, that starts off by the mother saying, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” That vivid phrase could well apply to Lynch’s life and experiences. As well as the fallout from her partner’s addiction and abusiveness, her mother suffered from a crack addiction, and in late 2020 she and her youngest son were seriously injured, and her car totaled when a car back-ended them. Her life has not been easy.
“The last thing that I wanted was a broken family, but I do want a strong and healthy-minded family,” said Lynch about her decision to leave the children’s father once and for all despite the fact that she still cares for him. “I’ve learned that you can’t save anybody from themselves.”
Lynch’s aunt, Joyce Cade, a retired psychiatric nurse in Akron, Ohio, said Lynch needs to remain vigilant not only for herself but more especially for her children.
“She’s always been a strong person. She sees that the boys are a bit of a struggle because they miss their father. He will try to manipulate her to his dying day. I try to listen to her when she needs to talk and give her different scenarios. She cannot afford to look back because it will undo everything,” said Cade who continues to help out Lynch financially as much as she can. “It’s a shame, but Quanay’s oldest daughter can clearly tell when her father is sober or under the influence and she is not 10.”
Reflections and Aspirations
Two years ago, in 2019, Lynch graduated from Prince George’s Community College and was recognized as a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant. She has worked as an Office Manager for a tax preparer and a Customer Support Representative for Time Warner Cable. She currently works part-time for the Census Bureau, and hopes that she will be promoted soon to a full-time position with benefits.
A vibrant, engaging woman, she believes her future vocation will involve helping people with families. She dreams of being financially stable, becoming a homeowner and perhaps even being an entrepreneur.
“If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, I would have learned to invest in myself earlier. I would have taken vacation trips and been smarter with my money. I would have saved more, spent less.”
With these lessons in mind, and focused firmly on her family and career, Lynch’s future looks promising.