Eight years ago, Lisa came to the Mary Isaak Center for the first time due to domestic violence.

“When I came here, it was a blessing,” she says. “I was able to focus on healing, plus getting my life in order, because I was dysfunctional before I came here. They helped me to stand on my feet, get my self-esteem back, grow from my experience, and to be able to see that, as a woman, I could step out of it and be a survivor.

Even then, Lisa was determined to turn her life around. “I ended up volunteering in the kitchen.…I went to school, and then I got a job, got an apartment, and moved out. Rapid Re-Housing helped me from there. And it lasted for a while. This time, I’m back again, not for the same reasons, but for some of the same behavior.”

For many of our clients, breaking the cycle of homelessness takes years of effort. But while Lisa’s setbacks have brought her once more to the Mary Isaak Center, her determination and self-awareness are helping her make a plan to get back into permanent housing. “I’m doing the same thing I did last time, because it worked,” she says.

She’s volunteering again in the kitchen, this time with the support of Executive Chef Janin Harmon, who is encouraging Lisa to get her culinary degree at Fresh Starts Culinary Academy in Marin, where Janin herself is a graduate. “Here, it’s so nurturing,” Lisa says, “and so different from any other place that I’ve really ever been. Because it’s like, you get a lot of love. You get a lot of tough love, but you also get experience from the other staff that has been here and done that.

“It’s a little embarrassing to come in all broken and talk to somebody that has book knowledge, because they really don’t know where you’ve been at. The staff here lets you know, ‘Hey, look, I’ve been there. And you don’t have to feel afraid to let me know what’s going on with you.’ So it’s easier to get a footing and a foundation, to be able to face the world again, with a different perspective, but a stronger character.