Photo of Dynise Coogler, who is employed by the housing program, standing next to her favorite piece of art at Hyacinth's Place.
Victoria Jones

Second chances abound at the Hyacinth’s Place women’s program. Hyacinth’s Place is a 15-unit supportive housing program in Northeast, D.C. that is for women who are homeless, at risk for homelessness, and who have mental health diagnoses. They offer a wealth of services, such as individual service plans, case management, medication administration, education, and more to help the women rebuild their lives.

Dynise Coogler, a resident and employee, found Hyacinth’s Place while looking for somewhere to move out of the group home she’d been living in.

“The longest you can stay there is a year, and I had stayed there a year and I needed some place to go.  My case manager had heard about Hyacinth’s Place and told me to come and visit and see how I’d like it,” Coogler said.

She thinks that Hyacinth’s Place is better than group homes due to the fact that it helps you save a lot more money and that there isn’t a time limit on how long you can stay. Coogler believes she’s in a much better and stable environment now.

“You have to have help from the state and [group homes] take all your money,” Coogler said. “Here at Hyacinth’s, I am handling my own money.  I am able to shop and get my own toiletries, my own paper products, which gives you a feeling of–not say so much power–but gives you a feeling of being able to suffice for yourself. ”

Overall, being able to live and work at Hyacinth’s Place has been a very rewarding and positive experience for Coogler.

“You can stay here as long as you like, as long as you follow the rules, pay your rent, that type of thing.  Hyacinth’s has given me a job because I work here and I’m a resident, and it’s very stabilizing to be able to help the ladies, I’m also to help myself, and it’s a win-win for me.”

Hyacinth’s Place was an idea that was in development for six years.  After a fight to get in the space they now occupy on Bladensburg Road, Hyacinth’s Place has become a welcoming part of the community.  The facility, which is mostly run by volunteers and interns, presents itself as a place to start working toward long term solutions.

Staff members work with each individual to identify the factors that rendered the residents homeless. Residents receive clinical attention and the education needed to address their mental health conditions.  Life goals are also scrutinized for practicality, support and achievement.

Life skill training is also provided to help the women succeed in after leaving Hyacinth’s. Due to their mental or physical conditions, some of the women may have to brush up on money management, personal hygiene, housekeeping, shopping, etc.

To simulate living in an actual apartment, the women pay 30 percent of their income for rent.  This comes with a sense of independence and privacy because the women have their own rooms with personal bathrooms and kitchenettes. There is a laundry facility in-building and the option to shop for personal items nearby. Hyacinth’s Place also hosts events such as a Valentine’s Day dance and a volunteer barbecue to entertain residents and celebrate the hard work of volunteers and interns.

“I was able to sing for the Woman’s Empowerment Day.  I was able to sing for the Volunteer’s Barbecue we had for our volunteers and interns,” Coogler said. “I’ve been able to write for the newsletter and website.  Along with working, I’ve been able to have my talents, my creative talents, used for the betterment of Hyacinth’s and the betterment of myself.”

Another resident, Jamiah Gray, has lived at Hyacinth’s Place since April. She most appreciates the programming.

“They provide the meals and they have special occasions, like special barbeques, so it really helps you get comfortable,” Gray said.

One of the programs that she has been active in is counseling.  Gray thinks that it really helps to organize her thoughts and figure out what’s going on.

“I talk to a counselor one-on-one, and we discussed even bringing in members of my family to the counseling. It helps to keep me grounded … My counselor has been telling me to journal lately, so that’s helped,” Gray said.

Hyacinth’s Place provides the time and attention necessary to invest in each woman’s future.

“It’s a good start in life because a lot of people that’s here come from hard times, and it’s a good way to get on your feet and have support,” Gray said.