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Achieving Independence

My Sister’sPlace

Born and raised in Baltimore, Seneca Bailey found herself couch surfing and staying in shelters after her mother moved to Oklahoma. With a friend from the shelters, Seneca started coming to My Sister’s Place for meals. “But I didn’t go up to the offices,” she said. “I don’t do well with case workers. I never keep appointments. I thought, ‘I can do this on my own.’”

Wendy Gilbert’s path to her work as therapeutic support specialist at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center paralleled the experiences of many of the women she serves in her job today. A struggling single mother and survivor of domestic violence, she found connection. “I could have been one of these women,” she said. “I love them.”

Wendy is always on the lookout for windows of opportunity. She’d become fond of Seneca, whose work from art therapy classes adorns the walls of My Sister’s Place. But Seneca didn’t seem interested in pursuing other services available to her there. So one day, Wendy pulled Seneca into her office.

“I just saw the love this girl has, her passion for life,” she explained. “Her artwork is beautiful. She puts forth this beautiful smile. She says ‘I LOVE you!’ and I say, ‘I love you too, just do the right thing. Show up!”

Though Wendy isn’t a caseworker, she leveraged their affectionate relationship to encourage Seneca to accept the help available and take first steps to self-sufficiency: getting her Maryland ID, getting temporary disability assistance (TDAP), applying for Social Security disability.

“Wendy is like a best friend,” Seneca said. “I tell her almost everything. If I’m having a bad day or if anything good happens, I have to tell Wendy immediately. She helped me get my medical insurance, and I’m glad I’m in therapy now, which she’s been trying to get me to do for a year now. My Sister’s Place is a great experience. There are not a lot of places like this out there for women. And Wendy is a role model. She is just happiness, for me.”