Steps on the road to housing: The journey of “Mama Duke”


It was her son that gave her the nickname she goes by: “Mama Duke.” She and her son had been homeless for close to six years. Homelessness is an experience no one wants to see their child or their parent go through.  It was tough on them.

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Liz Nyberg, the case manager at PACEM (the overnight winter shelter) first started working with Mama Duke and her son when they were guests of PACEM. Liz assessed them for the Rapid Re-Housing Program administered by The Haven. Mama Duke was enrolled in the program in January 2018.

Liz worked closely with Samantha Wood, senior case manager at The Haven, to identify housing resources for both Mama Duke and her son. But it was soon apparent that it would be easier to find housing for Mama Duke alone. Due to her serious health issues which made living on the streets increasingly dangerous, she and her son made the choice to pursue housing options separately.

Mama Duke was housed in May 2018 through the Piedmont Housing Alliance. “I love my new home. I love the view. I like watching the deer,” she says. Samantha continues to work with her on her housing stabilization plan. The first priority was her health. Samantha helped Mama Duke to get on track to managing her health by connecting her to a regular doctor at a local clinic. She was also able to order a pair of glasses through The Haven’s client assistance fund, and PACEM helped her purchase a new set of dentures through their collaboration with AIM (Alliance for Interfaith Ministries).

As part of the stabilization plan, Mama Duke seeks out meaningful activities. “I like to do all kinds of crafts. I like cooking, which I can do here now. I love fishing, but I don’t know a place to fish around here.”

Samantha is amazed by her transformation. Mama Duke says of her experience, “I’m a lot happier, not being out on the street. And fixing up my house gives me something to do, too. I enjoy it.”

Haven Staff