I Am Project HOME - Valerie Holmes
The following article is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of News From HOME, our quarterly print newsletter. You can read the whole newsletter online. If you want to subscribe, click here.
Behind Valerie Holmes’ quiet, strong demeanor are experiences of deep trauma. Over the years, she has not only overcome that trauma, she has turned it into strength – for herself and for others.
A Philadelphia native, Valerie is a survivor of tumultuous years in the foster care system that included many episodes of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. For most of her adult life, she hid much of that emotional and mental trauma through self-medication of drugs that eventually led her to “rock bottom.” It was only after coming to Project HOME, and with the support of staff, Certified Peer Specialists, and even fellow residents, that she began a journey of recovery. “Project HOME gave me my dignity back after I had lost it,” she says. “Having positive people in my life helped me a whole lot.”
She was moved to “give back” by becoming one of those positive people. Valerie became a Certified Peer Specialist herself (someone who has a personal history of behavioral health challenges, and who receives training to support others in their recovery process), and began volunteering as a case aide to work with alumni. After seven months of volunteering, she was hired to coordinate Project HOME’s Resident Alumni Program (see “Continuing on the Journey” on page 1), which has been her job for the past two years. In addition to coordinating the program and working to support alumni, she still serves on the Resident Advisory Board and facilitates tenant councils at two of our residential sites, 1515 Fairmount Avenue and her former home, Kate’s Place.
“This job has helped me sleep at night,” Valerie says. “It’s a good feeling helping people.” She continues to take classes to learn more and refine her skills in counselling and peer support. “When I better myself, I can help people more.”
When she works with alumni, Valerie sees her work as equipping them to advocate for themselves. “My purpose is to see them stand on their own, even after going through storms, and come out after winning.” She acknowledges that she can get disappointed when a person is not taking the steps he or she needs to succeed. “I have to realize that it’s not in my time, it’s in their time. You have to meet people where they’re at. It’s in God’s hands.” Knowing how much she benefited from the non-judgmental, affirming spirit she experienced at Project HOME when she needed support, she learns to take a gentler and more affirming tone with the alumni she relates to. “Project HOME doesn’t look at people’s faults, but at your good side, at your potential. That means a lot.”
Valerie’s presence in our community truly means a lot to many people, and we are grateful.