Formerly homeless, she now serves others as an LCSNW housing navigator
Melanie Curtis loves her job. She didn’t think it would be such a rough road to find work that is as fulfilling as what she found at LCSNW. But today she’s happy to help others in ways that draw deeply from her personal life struggles.
“I’ve been through every circumstance they are going through and that helps them feel safe, and I can sympathize and support them,” she said.
Melanie is a Resource Navigator with the agency in Everett, Washington. She helps connect people experiencing homelessness with housing, employment, food and life essentials like showers and laundry facilities. She’s currently assisting 72 families and has had a caseload as high as 100 families.
“That’s a lot of people who are sometimes desperate for your help,” Melanie said. “It’s a very sad thing, and it’s so rewarding when I can help.”
Melanie knows what it’s like to feel lost and alone. She experienced homelessness for more than 10 years – a big responsibility for a mom of six children, all now grown.
A decade ago, when a relative on her husband’s side of the family abused their 7-year-old daughter, Melanie was shocked that her husband refused to take action. Fearful for her daughter’s safety, Melanie packed up the youngest kids, left that night and didn’t look back. She contacted Child Protective Services and the police; she eventually learned that her husband’s relative, who had a history of offenses, moved to another country.
“I lost everything, but I knew I had to remove my kids from that situation. I lost my husband, my home, my bank account and more,” she said.
Melanie’s life was further complicated by an addiction to prescription drugs for a medical problem.
Melanie said she was luckier than many who experience homelessness because she often found friends to stay with, or “couch surf, as many like to call it.” While grateful for a roof overhead, her kids were affected by the frequent moving and instability. They are all working to recover from it today.
She eventually found a patchwork of temporary housing assistance that carried her through the next several years, including motel housing and a shelter for women and children. Her network of help included the YWCA, Volunteers of America, Housing Hope, Catholic Community Services, and LCSNW.
Lori Morgan, now Melanie’s LCSNW lead, was the Resource Navigator who helped secure the stable housing where she lives today. Melanie also found a substance use disorder program and is now a recovering addict.
In June 2022, Melanie joined the LCSNW staff and says she wouldn’t change a thing, even the circumstances that led her there. “My clients will be very reserved and want to keep to themselves, until they hear my story. Then they open up.”
Lori praises Melanie for her compassion and her ability to speak to clients “on their level.”
“In the first few months she has been part of the team, she has made great strides to help our participants gain their own housing,” Lori said.
Melanie is the area’s only Spanish-speaking navigator. She feels strongly that LCSNW provides unique services and that many people would be worse off without the agency’s help.
“I’m just grateful I get to do this job and help people to find a home,” she said. “I’m grateful I can share my story and perhaps give hope to others who are struggling. We’re really all in this together.”