Story

The Gittens Get a New Start

After three years of homelessness, Epiphaney and Humberto Gittens are here to stay. Both Army veterans, they travelled all over the country searching for jobs and a home they could afford—staying with friends and family, in hotels when they had the money, and finally, in their car.  From their first meeting in Washington, DC, working in San Diego, then travelling to North Carolina and Virginia, the Gittens returned to Washington, DC, in March 2014, hoping to settle with their three children.

Epiphaney left the Army in 2007 when their first son was born, and Humberto was discharged in 2011. He took classes in culinary arts in the different cities they visited, but the homes were out of reach; “We just weren’t able to find a place we could afford,” said Epiphaney. They decided to return to DC to be near family and the Art Institute of Washington, DC, where Humberto could enroll in the culinary arts program. Epiphaney is studying forensic psychology at St. Augustine University, with a goal of helping child victims of crime.

Here in DC, they found Central Union Mission’s Food PLUS Center on a list of resources. “We are so glad we came,” said Epiphaney. “At the Food PLUS Center, you’re not just a number. They gave us a hug; we talked together, cried together. It’s more than just getting some free food. The people have great hearts and were telling us, “You are down now, but you can get up.”

Living in their car was not so bad, said Epiphaney; “having my family together and safe gave me hope.” But they were overjoyed to learn that the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program could find them a place to live. In June they moved into a two-bedroom apartment in a gated building in Anacostia. “We were wondering how we’d get enough room, but this apartment is large,” she commented. The couple’s three boys, ages 7, 5 and 2, have their own bedroom to share, and with some furniture from Food PLUS Center, they are together and safe.

The Gittens are excited about their new start and grateful to Food PLUS Center for the help. “I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to give back and volunteer myself,” says Epiphaney. “Maybe some people say that one little can of food won’t help, but every little bit counts. It’s so encouraging to know that you care about us.”