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Who Was Hyacinth?

Viola Ernestine Barrow was called Hyacinth after a beautiful flower, which grows in waterways in Guyana. Hyacinth grew up witnessing her deaf mother’s daily struggle as a “domestic.” She cleaned houses as well as washed and ironed clothes for her peers in order to provide for her lone parent family. They lived in a small house and many days, the mother did not know how she would provide food for the family. Paying rent for their humble dwelling was almost impossible, leaving the family constantly susceptible to eviction.

Although married to her mother, Hyacinth’s father had a visiting relationship with his family. Hyacinth’s father had spent most of his life in the gold mines of Guyana searching for gold that he never found, leaving the responsibility of caring for his family to his wife.

By the age of 18, she had only seen her father three times. Her father next visited when she was 36 years old, bringing with him a blind and sick helpless old man to be her sole responsibility. 

Her Choices

Seeing the effects of these life stressors on her mother, Hyacinth decided to work as a pupil teacher at the age of 16. She assumed the responsibility of her mother, the household, and, later, four of her brother’s eight children. Hyacinth went on to teach at an elementary school level for 39 years.

Without a mortgage, she gradually built a beautiful house in a suburb of Georgetown. Hyacinth was a stalwart of the church who cared and reared her four adopted children with a matchless generosity of the heart.

In her 40s, she worked full time and studied in the evenings for three years to obtain her trained teacher’s certificate. To augment the income required to support her family, Hyacinth gave private lessons to children who needed additional help to cope with the competitive educational system.

Her Philosophy

Hyacinth believed the combination of education, hard work, and sacrifice were the tickets out of poverty. Therefore, she instilled the concept of strong morals and the values of integrity and decency in the young minds that were entrusted to her.

Today, many men and women hold high professional positions in various parts of the globe. They had their initial lessons and built their foundations in both academia and human kindness from their classes with Hyacinth.

Through the Fire

Hyacinth was a dignified well-spoken woman whose fragile appearance belied the strength of body, mind, and spirit. She emerged from the fires of a life like a solid nugget of pure gold. Hyacinth demonstrated that poverty could be overcome by the strength of character, generosity of spirit, and a deep spirituality.

Her Legacy

At the age of 59, Hyacinth died of uterine cancer. She left a substantial fortune for a woman of those circumstances in that time. The nieces and nephews Hyacinth raised have benefited tremendously from her presence in their lives and in their daily work. They now seek to promote the values she instilled.

A Message From Urla Barrow, the Executive Director of Hyacinth’s Place

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A Message From Urla Barrow, the Executive Director of Hyacinth’s Place

“Hyacinth’s Place is being presented as a plan to start a solution. It is an idea that was developed more than six years ago and currently stands tall, beautiful, and real at 1060 Bladensburg Road in Northeast Washington, D.C. The facility is a 15-unit supportive housing program for women who are homeless, at risk for homelessness, and who have mental health diagnoses. It is a place for second chances.

Homelessness can become a reality to anyone. It is not necessarily a result of substance abuse or mental illness. An unfortunate accident or a sudden misfortune can render an individual homeless. According to recent statistics, in the District of Columbia, on any given day, there are more than 14,000 homeless individuals. 

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The dynamics that bring an individual to the place of homelessness vary. In many instances, mental illness is a contributing factor. A homeless person affected by mental illness needs a safe home with the support services that would allow him or her to function to the best of his or her capability.

These individuals can eventually contribute to society instead of being dependent on the wage-earning, tax-paying public. This is where a facility like Hyacinth’s Place becomes necessary.

Women at Hyacinth’s Place are given an opportunity to rebuild their lives. The journey will be long and challenging. However, our staff will work conscientiously with each individual to identify the issues that rendered them homeless. Residents will receive the clinical attention and education needed to address their mental health conditions. Life goals identified will be scrutinized for practicality for support and for achievement.”