When Athena Haniotis is out advocating, she likes to wear a shirt that reads, Girls just want to have fundamental rights. It says a lot about who she is. A forceful activist among her peers and a member of the Health Care for the Homeless Board of Directors, Athena is committed to turning widespread notions about homelessness on their head.
"I see myself as a bit of a rebel because I'm challenging the stereotypes," she says.
Athena's childhood was marked by homelessness and abuse. But as an adult, she found years of stability in a good government job. Although she was experiencing growing health challenges, she kept a keen focus on self-care through holistic health and wellness practices. Homelessness was a thing of the past—until a single day in January 2012 changed everything. That day, Athena lost her government job, got into a car accident and broke up with her boyfriend. Overnight, she was back in the familiar space of having no resources and no place to go. And her health conditions were deteriorating.
"I felt let down and abandoned. It was a big blow and the roadblocks were challenging," Athena reflects. "They still hurt, but I recognize that I can't sit and stew in those moments. That's not how you survive. You've got to keep moving ahead."
Ever resilient, Athena eventually walked through the doors of Health Care for the Homeless to ask for help. She worked with nurses, therapists, dentists and more over the last few years to build up her health and get back on her feet.
Athena still doesn't have a place to call home, but she remains optimistic. She's using her experience and new leadership role on our board to make real change for others. She looks forward to educating policymakers about the realities of homelessness, especially among women and members of the LGBTQ community.
"It's a sense of pure joy and bliss to educate people," Athena says. "If I can lessen the load for someone else, then there's purpose for my experience."
Join Athena in advocating for the affordable housing, livable wages and quality health care we need to prevent and end homelessness in our community.