“If it wasn’t for ACTION-Housing and Braddock Apartments,” Winnie said , “I do believe, I would be dead.”

Winnie came to ACTION-Housing nearly a decade ago.  Now, the 67 year old college graduate lives in ACTION-Housing’s Forest Hills Senior Apartments, having transformed her life in the past decade

Winnie spent her 57th birthday partying—drinking and doing drugs, a lifestyle she maintained for the previous 42 years. Shortly afterwards, deciding to detox, she checked into “Living Sober” at the old UPMC Braddock hospital.

But she still wasn’t ready to get completely sober.

“I really didn’t plan on changing,” she said.  “I was trying to plan a controlled way to do what I wanted to do.”

Hertime in rehab changed that.

“Inside myself, I knew the truth—that I needed to do something about this.”

Once she completed the program, she decided not to return to her old neighborhood.

“I knew, if I had any chance of staying clean and sober, I would have to get away from there,” Winnie said. 

She spent another six months in a supervised program, and found work.

 It was at her next stop, a place in Swissvale that Winnie describes as a “three-quarters house” that she heard of Braddock Apartments, an ACTION-Housing development that provides housing and supportive services for people with a history of homelessness. Winnie was accepted into the program and moved intoBraddock, where she stayed for the next six years. 

During those six years, while working, Winnie enrolled in the Drug and Alcohol program at CCAC, and worked towards earning a degree.

“It took me six years, but in those six years, it taught me how to live a clean and decent life,” she said. “And at my age, that’s a miracle.” 

ACTION-Housing brought the newly minted college graduate on as a Braddock Apartments staff member, where she already served as a peer educator. 

When she turned 62, Winnie was ready to live without the extra support Braddock Apartments provided. She was the first to put her name on the waiting list for the newly completed Forest Hills Senior Apartments.

Despite knee and shoulder surgery, and chronic joint pain from arthritis that requires her to regularly go to physical therapy, Winnie isn’t looking to act her age.

“I’m not ready for the rocking chair,” she said.

She still wants to work, and eventually, wants to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

In the ten years since Winnie has been off the streets, her life has completely turned around. She worked hard to make that happen for herself — to achieve self-sufficiency.

But she still recognizes the help she received along the way.

“ACTION-Housing really changed my life. The last ten years of my life have been great.” She said. “It’s a blessing.”