La'Kisha Allen, at Community of Hope in Southwest Washington. She is a client of the nonprofit, which offers housing and other services to poor and homeless families. The charity is a partner with The Washington Post in its Helping Hand fund drive. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
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After years of using drugs to dull the pain of a childhood marred by sexual and physical abuse, La’Kisha Allen decided to get clean. She was in danger of having her son taken away from her.

“When Child Protective Services came, it was either get clean and sober or lose your son,” she said. “It was a dose of reality.”

La’Kisha was accepted into a residential drug treatment program that allowed her to take her son with her. Success was not a sure thing.

“When I was in treatment, we were sitting in a group and it was told to us 90 girls that maybe 10 percent of us would make it and succeed,” La’Kisha said. “And everyone would look around and be like, ‘That can’t be true,’ because everybody in the program was saying we want to be clean and we want to make it.”

La’Kisha is making it, but one of the conditions of her treatment was that she not return to work right away. It was thought that the temptation of a paycheck would be too much and might cause her to fall back into drug abuse.

She turned to Community of Hope, a nonprofit that helps homeless and low-income families in Washington. Community of Hope is one of three local charities that are part of The Washington Post’s new Helping Hand fund drive.

“I don’t know how I would have been able to do it without Community of Hope,” said La’Kisha, 38. “I had no job. I was still trying to maintain my sobriety, and I still wanted to keep my family together. It was like problems on top of problems. . . . I was just thankful I was one of the chosen ones that was able to be blessed by the program.”

La’Kisha lives with her son, two adult daughters and three grandchildren in a three-bedroom home in Southeast that is provided by Community of Hope, part of its permanent supportive housing program and one of 350 units the nonprofit oversees.

She entered the program in 2010 and is allowed to stay for 15 years, though some clients are able to leave sooner.

“I think when it comes to Ms. Allen, she has a really strong support system,” said Rashanna Roach, her Community of Hope caseworker.

“I have never had any suspicion that she has gone back to using at all. I think it’s because she’s tried to keep herself busy, which from my experience with people in recovery, that’s what they do: They keep themselves busy,” she said.

La’Kisha has a full-time job as a security guard. She also goes to the University of the District of Columbia, where she takes classes to prepare her for a better-paying job in the medical field.

She meets with Rashanna once or twice a month to discuss goals, and she’s taken advantage of Community of Hope’s many programs, including financial planning, employment assistance and mentoring for her 11-year-old son.

What Community of Hope has done is give La’Kisha and her family — and the hundreds of D.C. families it serves — a safe space to get their lives together.

La’Kisha is miles ahead of where she was when she was told she was in danger of losing custody of her son. She realizes that she’s fortunate — and she’s determined.

“I ran into some of the individuals I was in the program with,” she said, her voice sad at the memory. “It’s scary. A lot of people, they didn’t make it. Their children got adopted because they went back out and used again.”

La’Kisha vows that won’t ever happen to her.

How to help

In the coming weeks, I’ll share stories of Community of Hope and two other nonprofit groups that are part of The Post’s Helping Hand: Sasha Bruce Youthwork and Homestretch . I hope you will consider supporting their good work.

We hope to raise $200,000 by Jan. 9.

You can contribute to Community of Hope by visiting www.posthelpinghand.com and clicking where it says “Donate.” To contribute by mail, send a check payable to “Community of Hope” to: Community of Hope, Attn: Helping Hand, 4 Atlantic St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20032.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.