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From homelessness to public office: Delegate-elect Adele McClure reflects on past after parents reunite

Until last week, Adele McClure lacked any photographs of her biological parents together.

Now, the 34-year-old Delegate-elect representing Arlington’s 2nd District has two such photos.

“I never thought I would ever see my parents in the same room,” she told ARLnow. “At one point, I thought I would never see my father or even knew what he looked like.”

Her father had just come back to the U.S. from a visit with his family in the Philippines and asked to have dinner with McClure, who subsequently invited her mother.

“I just mentioned to my mom, very casually, ‘Hey, my dad’s gonna be in town. She was like, ‘Really?’ And all of a sudden, the stars kind of aligned and they met for the first time since I was born,” she said.

While McClure has been in contact with her biological father, Romy, since the age of 16, it marked the first time her mother, Minnie, had seen or spoken with him since before McClure’s birth.

“For me it was significant because it’s something I hadn’t witnessed until much later in life,” she said. “It was certainly a surreal moment to see both my mother and my father sitting across from me, side-by-side.”

Although deeply meaningful for McClure, the reunion was tinged by the fact that she and her three siblings — who share a different absent biological father — had to navigate the challenging realities single-parent households face.

In 1988, about a year before McClure was born, her parents met and dated briefly in Yuma, Arizona. They became estranged after McClure’s father, a U.S. Army official, was deployed to Alaska.

Almost a decade later, McClure’s life took a dramatic turn after her mother was engaged to another man. Then 9-year-old McClure and her three siblings relocated to Alexandria to live with their mother’s new fiancé but soon after found themselves in a motel after getting kicked out of their new home.

McClure and her family frequently moved as her mother, who worked various minimum wage jobs, often faced evictions because she could not afford the rent.

“I knew what evictions were. I knew what not making the rent meant. I knew all that stuff at an extremely young age,” McClure said.

While still in high school, she juggled three jobs and cared for her niece and nephew while her brother was incarcerated. McClure said she remembers that, at one point, she and her siblings had nothing to eat and survived by drinking water for days at a time.

Aware of the stigma being homeless carried, she chose to keep her family’s challenges a secret from friends and classmates.

“I would get off at the bus stop and pretend like I was walking to my old apartment. And then, when my friends would get to a certain point, I would say, ‘Oh, I forgot something. I gotta go to the store.’ And then I’d walk to the hotel,” McClure said.

McClure says her mother eventually found stability when she received a housing voucher and became an early childhood educator in Alexandria.

The experience of facing homelessness during her formative years, however, left a lasting impact on McClure and steered her towards housing advocacy and politics.

“I got to see how firsthand how housing is truly the the center of everything,” she said. “You cannot have stability in your employment or education or receiving mental health treatment or substance use disorder treatment or any of those other things without some sort of stable housing.”

Since graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011, McClure has helped run the state Department of Housing & Community Development’s first eviction-prevention effort and and served on various Arlington boards and committees focused on homelessness, housing solutions and community services.

She also worked under Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax as policy director — resignining after he became the target of sexual assault allegations — and served as the Executive Director of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus from October 2019 until this June, as she prepared for the November election.

The Delegate-elect ran unopposed in her bid for Arlington’s new 2nd District in the House of Delegates, winning 95% of the vote, or 17,409 votes total, in the general election. Her swearing in ceremony will be on Jan. 13, 2024.

Once in office, McClure aims to address many of the same challenges she and her family faced, including eviction prevention, bolstering renters rights and providing direct and indirect assistance to families struggling to find childcare or stable housing.

“I didn’t want to be that person. It just it happened to be that way,” McClure said. “I felt like that’s why I ran for office because I wanted to step up and represent a lot of those underrepresented voices who are not seen and do not have the opportunity to engage in, in public policy and in those types of legislative decisions.”

Despite her success, McClure emphasizes that she and her family, including her mother, who lost her job as a childcare provider during the pandemic, still continue to struggle because of high rent and stagnant wages.

“She’s retirement age, and she still has to work,” McClure said. “And I’m not sure when she’s gonna be able to retire.”

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