‘I’m just so grateful’ | Formerly homeless family move into their first apartment in DC

WASHINGTON — Stephanie Hill and Eric McCray juggled their three small children at a meeting on a Southeast, DC conference room Wednesday morning while listening to rental conditions.

Two-year-old twins Marley and Mason spun on chairs, while mom bounced 3-month-old Eric on her knee. The formerly homeless family is signing a lease for their very first apartment. And when the welcome packet and keys were handed over, Stephanie Hill let out a “woo hoo! Yay!”

WUSA9 first met the couple in their cramped hotel room. After spending a year at the DC General Shelter, they moved to the hotel for three weeks until their apartment was ready for them.

The city’s department of human services rushed to get them into a home for the holiday.

“I’m just so grateful,” Hill said crying in her new kitchen, “I’m blessed. I’m just so happy.”

"Tears of Joy – not of stress anymore" said formerly #homeless mother Stephanie Hill when she walked into her family’s new apartment for the very first time. #homefortheholiday @DCHumanServ @wusa9 pic.twitter.com/eGjFbA64RM

— Delia Gonçalves (@deliangoncalves) November 21, 2018

The family moves in through the Rapid Rehousing program that offers rental assistance for 18 months.

Landlord William C Smith provided furniture and household items, toiletries, quarters for laundry and a Thanksgiving care package.

“We can cook and eat and save money. I can walk to the Metro to work,” said Hill’s fiancé, Eric.

First step towards their future. FORMERLY #homeless family who left #DCGeneral #shelter signs lease for their first apartment @wusa9 @DCHumanServ #grateful pic.twitter.com/r91iMc7h2o

— Delia Gonçalves (@deliangoncalves) November 21, 2018

Hill who once said she just wants her boys to have freedom to run in their own space cried and said “yes, I’m just so happy…now we have carpet!”

She laughed. It’s the little things that mean so much for a young couple who worked hard to get here.

“What don’t kill you, makes you stronger and if you can pull yourself up out of a tough situation, it makes you stronger,” said McCray.

Through Rapid Rehousing, the city pays landlords full rent upfront while the tenants pay the city 40 percent of their salary. Currently 443 landlords are participating, but the city needs more because there are 590 families who still need homes.

The couple will visit with a case manager twice a month to make sure they’re track to maintain the rent after the program ends. The two-bedroom in Southeast goes for $1,085.

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