Giving Back: Orpah’s story

Photos by Sarah Deutch

Two years ago, Orpah was homeless, but today she’s an outgoing neighbor living in The Springs Apartments. With her bubbly personality and strong ties to the community, no one would be able to guess that Orpah W. spent many years living outside, suffering from PTSD and distrustful of people.

Today, she’s living a different story. Orpah was the fifth resident to move into The Springs. She happily watched the property fill up with new residents. “I love it because I know everybody in the building. I feel like I’m part of the staff,” she says with a laugh.

The Springs serves as headquarters for APAH. The staff interacts regularly with residents, which made her feel special. When she tells the story about a Resident Services Coordinator asking her to volunteer, she smiles and says, “out of all the people in the building…”

Living at The Springs has tremendously impacted her life: “I try to give back what they have given me.”

Orpah has volunteered for several APAH programs, including La Cocina VA food distributions and the annual Backpack Drive for APS students. “Whatever they have, I try to be available,” she says. She is passionate about helping people and has found volunteering to be a personally rewarding experience. “It made me realize that all people are not bad people.”

Prior to living at The Springs, Orpah went through several major traumas. In the span of a few years, she was hit in the head with a car jack during an assault, a train accident killed her brother, and her friend was killed in front of her. She is – to say the least – resilient. She didn’t even realize these experiences had deeply affected her: “ I didn’t know I was traumatized. I got used to it. Then I started talking about it and realized something wasn’t right.”

While she was homeless, Arlington County’s service called Treatment on Wheels put her in contact with the resources she needed, including a therapist and psychiatrist. Between these supports, she was able to address her traumas, start medication, and secure stable housing at The Springs.

Today she feels empowered. She says, “If I didn’t have affordable housing, I’d be in trouble. I have a fixed income.”

To her affordable housing is “a blessing.” She is adamant about the difference that it makes: “Everybody needs somewhere to stay and an equal opportunity.”

Thanks to the resources and opportunities offered by Arlington and APAH, Orpah lives comfortably and is thankful she doesn’t have to be outside unless she wants to be. “I have everything I need. I have my sofa, TV, my food, and my key.”