Meet Marvin Dawkins: Peer Outreach Specialist, Peer Mentor

Marvin Dawkins, Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor
Marvin Dawkins, Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor at The IMAGE Center for People with Disabilities

Marvin made three attempts to leave the nursing facility before he was able to move to his own home in the community. There were many difficulties and complications along the way.

At first, the court told Marvin his income was too high to qualify for services in the community through the waiver program. The second time he tried to leave the nursing facility, he was on a waiting list for three years, but never received services. The third time was a charm, Marvin said, and he finally received a voucher that allowed him to move into his own home in the community. His persistence paid off at last, and he was on his way to moving into his own apartment.

Once he was in his own apartment in the community, he encountered problems with accessibility. Marvin had to advocate for himself with property management to get these problems fixed.

One day, after Marvin left his apartment, he realized he left something there that he needed, but his aide had already left for the day. Marvin returned to his apartment to retrieve his belongings, but then he realized something – he had no way to get out of his apartment on his own, because there was no electric door opener. He was stuck. Marvin wrote a letter to the property manager about the problem, and 3 months later his electric door opener was installed, as well as an accessible showering system in his bathroom. Again, Marvin’s self-advocacy paid off.

During an interview, Marvin had some advice to offer others who are interested in moving out of a nursing facility and into the community:

“You have to really want it – to go after it and get it – otherwise you are going to be frustrated because everybody has things that come up and problems they are going to run into. You have to really want it.”

Marvin encourages people to make careful decisions about where they will move to:

“I tell people to insist to see the place before you move into it. There are certain things you need to make sure you can do with a disability or using a wheelchair; you need to be able to open the refrigerator door all the way, and you might not be able to even though the apartment says it’s accessible. A lot of the places just put a grab bar in the tub and call it accessible even though it isn’t. I know people who have lived for years without taking an actual shower – they just washed off instead because the bath wasn’t accessible to them.”

Marvin is appreciative of all the people who helped him before and after his transition to the community:

“I met a lot of helpful people out there. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Some of these people were support counselors or supports planners – they can help you the most because they know all the problems everyone else has had.”

Marvin also worked with The IMAGE Center during his transition into the community. Crystal Brockington was Marvin’s Peer Support Specialist and, after he moved out of the nursing facility, Crystal was also his Peer Mentor, with additional assistance from Lori Baskette. With encouragement from The IMAGE Center, Marvin participated in committees with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman and eventually the National Consumer Voice. Marvin currently works part-time at The IMAGE Center as a Peer Outreach Specialist and Peer Mentor, visiting residents of nursing facilities and coaching them on their options for receiving services in the community. Marvin also volunteers for Public Service Consultants to do additional peer outreach work.

“It’s rewarding – people cry [tears of joy] at the prospect of being able to leave [the nursing facility],” Marvin said. “Being out gives you a sense of self-worth that you lose in the nursing facility. The longer you’re there, the more everything just drops down – your morale, and everything you look forward to. There are so many things I can’t do, so I don’t ever think about those things – I just think about the things I can do and I try to do those things.”

Marvin has worked with residents in about 12 nursing facilities in Baltimore City, and he has helped over 100 people apply for waiver programs to receive services in the community. He is passionate about helping others to realize their potential for greater independence.


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IMAGE Center Success Stories: Meet Crystal and Stephanie

Crystal and Stephanie K 3

(Crystal Brockington left, Stephanie Klima right)


Stephanie is one of the dozens of individuals the IMAGE Center has helped transition from living in a nursing facility to living independently in the community.

8 years ago, Stephanie was placed in a group home after being diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. She was then moved to assisted living, and eventually to Manor Care Ruxton nursing facility where her health was stabilized. At the nursing facility, Stephanie met Crystal, a Peer Support Specialist from the IMAGE Center.

Crystal was helpful in showing Stephanie all the possibilities for living in the community. Luckily, after being on the waiting list for public housing for 8 years, Stephanie received a housing voucher at around the same time the Community Options Waiver program made the determination that Stephanie could move out of the nursing facility. A lot of paperwork was involved, but Crystal was there to support Stephanie as they worked together to make the move a reality.


Stephanie has always been an independent-minded person, and she is now extremely independent living in her own home in the community. She feels like she has power over what she does every day. Stephanie has MTA Mobility, taxi access, and the option of going to the League for People with Disabilities, to the Towson Center pool, or to the movies if she chooses. She is free to cook whenever she wants, she can have visitors as she pleases, and she can play music all the time. She manages her own medication, gets the durable medical equipment she needs, and was able to keep all of her doctors. She also gets 6 hours of personal care assistance per day in her home. Her budget is balanced and she says she has no financial worries. She enjoys a level of privacy that was never given to her in the nursing facility.

Stephanie says she now feels like she has a purpose, and her ambition to look really nice every day has returned. She is getting out more and is spending more time with her children and family. She recently went to her son’s graduation after he finished nursing school, and she feels like she is much more involved in playing the role of a mother. She is also motivated to put her professional experience as a makeup artist back to work again, and is considering getting involved as a volunteer to help women with disabilities feel beautiful.

Stephanie says she has changed a lot, and she’s a person who doesn’t normally like change, but these changes are good.


During an interview, Stephanie said, “It’s important for people to understand that they should get on the [public housing waiting] list, because if I hadn’t gotten on the list 8 years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten out [of the nursing facility]. All the organizations worked very hard and very diligently; everything was explained to me. It’s not hard to do it if you just have the mindset to do it. If you don’t have the resources, all you have to do is ask, and they will help you.”

Crystal says that Stephanie was never scared to ask questions and openly talk about her concerns. Good communication is very important for making a successful transition from a nursing facility to the community. Crystal also mentioned that Stephanie was very proactive and involved in moving out of the nursing facility – “It’s doable for anyone if you really want it and you work hard enough for it,” said Crystal. With Stephanie’s involvement and commitment to open communication, and Crystal’s hard work and commitment to coordinate Stephanie’s transition, together they made a winning team.

Stephanie offers this advice to people who are considering moving from a nursing facility to the community: “You really need to decide that you want this independence – you want it 150%, and you have to go for it 150% on any avenue you need, which means documentation, communication, getting the paperwork done – and then that gives you hope. You see yourself moving along in the process and that gives you even more hope and gratitude; it makes you more humble and grateful, and it makes you happy that you’re here. I think a lot of us get stuck and we don’t quite know how to get out of the rut. People who want to take this journey – they need to not be prideful, and they need to take these opportunities when they become available.”


If you enjoyed this article and would like to make a contribution to The IMAGE Center, please click here to make a donation or become a monthly sustaining member.

Your donations make success stories like these possible. Thank you for joining us in changing the meaning of disability for everyone.

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