At age 21, Victoria Brown was preparing to leave a drug rehabilitation center with few belongings and nowhere to go.
Brown had undergone treatment under a court order, and her Department of Corrections officer had told her it was best not to return to her hometown of Port Townsend.
Someone else at the treatment center happened to recommended Ryan’s House for Youth in Coupeville. Brown was placed into emergency housing Aug. 20, 2018.
“I thought it was kind of unreal,” she said.
Brown now is 22, has a job and recently moved into permanent housing in town. She credits the youth shelter for her ability to get back on her feet and stay sober. She’d been homeless on and off for two years before entering rehabilitation and had a hard time avoiding her old crowd in Port Townsend.
Within five days of moving into the temporary emergency housing at Ryan’s House, she found a job. This meant she could move into the transitional housing program, which provides a room and case management to 18-24 year olds. Residents are expected to be in school or working and pay rent that’s proportional to their income.
“She hit the ground running,” said Amber Truex, interim executive director.
Brown was direct about her past and her goals when she came to Ryan’s House. She told staff her number one goal was to stay sober, that she shouldn’t go back to Port Townsend and what her warning signs and triggers were for using.
Staff performed regular urine analyses to ensure she was keeping up with her goals. The structure of her job, household chores, a curfew and other house rules was at times frustrating, Brown said, but ultimately is what she credits with her success.
The past year wasn’t without its challenges or slip-ups for Brown, however.
In January, she broke one of her own rules and returned to her hometown, where she relapsed.
She said she’d been afraid to return to Ryan’s House because she was ashamed. Staff helped place her in a detox facility and then into treatment.
She has stayed sober since. She’d become addicted to meth and heroin around age 15. She said she had started taking Adderall at school and soon became addicted to amphetamines. Meth was easy to access because she knew a lot of people who used it, she said.
The heroin addiction began by taking opioid pills at parties.
She moved out of her mother’s house when she turned 18 and rented a place for a year. After the lease ended, she was homeless from age 19 to 21, when she went to treatment.
Brown said she hopped from friends’ couches to drug houses and sometimes slept outside. There was an overnight shelter, but she never went there.
“It’s weird to actually consider yourself homeless,” she said.
She’d been close with her mother and sister and was used to seeing them all the time before leaving Port Townsend. When Brown first arrived at Ryan’s House, she said she’d been so determined to start her new life, she didn’t spend much time missing her family or considering the fact she didn’t know anyone in this new place.
“It was such a big deal that I did this, I didn’t let myself think about that really,” she said.
After a while, it slowly set in and she started to feel more alone. But it helped that she’d formed relationships with the other residents and staff, especially Truex, who was the organization’s program manager at the time.
“I was her person,” said Truex. “She was able to come to me when she was having a hard time … She never felt judgment and was able to pick herself up and progress.”
Brown said it helped to have Truex to “bounce ideas” off of and talk through things with.
“Amber helped a lot,” said Brown. “She was really real with me.”
She also met her current boyfriend through former residents at Ryan’s House. She said it’s the healthiest relationship she’s ever been in. She said it took a while, but she feels stable and now she’s excited about moving out.
She knew the situation at Ryan’s House was a “stepping stone” to the rest of her life.
“I legit, 100 percent, have no idea where I’d be if this place hadn’t been here,” Brown said.