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Kim is happy to stay home


It’s early in the morning and Kim Hawkins sits out on her balcony. A rustling bush across the street in Leakin Park catches her attention. Out pops a fawn, then another, then another. Six in total.

“They’re out there playing just like kids!” she says. “It’s so peaceful here. I love it.”

Kim recognizes the irony in the fact that as soon as she found stability, the world turned upside down. Just one month after she moved into her new place at the Bernard Mason Apartments, COVID-19 changed everything.

She had big plans this spring because she completed her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology at Coppin State University at the age of 61. But her graduation ceremony was postponed.

“That’s the only thing bringing me down right now,” she says. “I really wish my grandnieces and grandnephews could have watched me walk across that stage.”

But Kim doesn’t spend much time focusing on that disappointment. She’s too busy relishing in her newfound peace and quiet.

For decades, Kim worked tirelessly as a nursing assistant. But she was barely getting by in a state where Black women make just 69 cents for every dollar paid to white men. When her knees gave out after years of pushing a cart up and down hard hospital floors, she couldn’t work anymore.

Kim spent the next six years living in a cramped room.

Many nights she huddled on the floor with her cat, Chloe, listening to a seemingly endless chorus of sirens and gunshots.

“I felt so unsafe where I was,” she says. “I was terrorized inside and outside the house.”

A Health Care for the Homeless client, Kim has a particularly strong relationship with nurse practitioner Tyler Cornell, who has helped her recover from two knee replacements and surgery for an ovarian cyst. Therapist Jan Ferdous also helps her cope with the fear and trauma from years of unstable housing.

When she first moved, she didn't have some of the basics she needed to settle into her new home. Tyler helped with that, too, providing Kim with a home starter kit—shower curtains, cleaning supplies, towels—and connecting her with community resources to help with furniture.

"I didn't know where I would start to get all of those things I needed," Kim says. "That really made moving in so much easier."

Kim doesn’t mind that now most of her care has shifted to telehealth. She loves calling Tyler and Jan from the comfort of a safe home she worked so hard to find.

“Every morning I wake up and I’m so grateful I’m here,” she says, Chloe purring in agreement. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good about staying home until now.”

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