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Natasha – “I am not my situation”

“I used to say ‘I can’t wait to be normal again’. I’m getting it back to normal”, said one of our residents Natasha. She, along with her three teenagers, moved in to a WHC scattered site apartment. “When I came to look at it, I fell in love with it. It has high ceilings and makes it feel spacious and elegant. A first floor apartment with a basement…I have teenage boys and girls; we need the space. We love it. We love it. We love it.”

In late 2013 to early 2014, one of my kids was getting into trouble and the state wanted to take him away, but I wasn’t willing to jeopardize my family. The time I took to take care of my kids and keep my family together ended up jeopardizing my job though, and I lost the government job I’d had for 13 years. 

I went down with my kids to Virginia to stay with family. After staying with a couple family members, the money I had saved ran out and so did my welcome. “It was my first time ever being homeless.”

I grew up in New York City. Each summer we would go to my grandma’s house in the country to get away from city for a while. It’s good to see other places and be outside of your everyday sometimes. I grew up middle class, and I was too before all this. My kids never wanted for anything, we were doing okay. I never thought this would happen to me.

My family and I came back to Baltimore, and we were blessed. Every 4 months, we had to move to a new shelter, but we always had a new shelter lined up to go to when our time ran out at the one we were staying at. We’ve been at 5 shelters in total. My kids are troopers. They hung with me and wanted to stay with me. Even though they went through this, they wanted to do it with me. 

At first, I couldn’t accept that I was homeless (mentally) even though I was. When referred to as homeless, I would get angry and say I’m not homeless. Then, once I did accept it, I got angry. I was angry at people turning their backs on us, not getting help, and the worst thing was when someone who wanted to help would say, “I can’t help because…..you’re not sick enough, you’ve got kids, you’re not mentally unstable, etc. etc.” People talk to you like you are nothing. I didn’t come from a bottom grade and never lived my life that way. Sometimes people would try to make me low and speak to my family and me disrespectfully, but I wouldn’t have it.

I started having severe anxiety. The loudness and sound of shelters in conjunction with my circumstances would drive me nuts. I’d get hot and need to go for a walk. Or I wanted to hit people (for no good reason, just because I was so anxious) But I knew, you can’t just hit people. That’s not how to be. 

It was then, I started drinking (and I was never a drinker before). It became something I was just doing, but I thought it was becoming too much, especially since my grandfather and father were both alcoholics, so I knew it was hereditary. I called my dad and said “Daddy, I think I’m starting to have a drinking problem, because I want the taste.” My dad said, “You need to stop drinking or find a meeting or talk to someone”. I found a meeting and I started praying. I had to be strong and talk to myself saying, “You are going through something. You are angry and you want to drink to make it go away. You gotta be strong and get through this without that.” I was praying a lot. 

I wanted to give up, but when I looked over at my kids, I knew I couldn’t give up.  I want them to be good, decent people who interact well with others. As a parent, you are the hope for your kids. If I give up, that it dims that hope for them. I have these young men and women (3 boys and 1 girl), so I gotta be strong for them because I want them be good strong people. My life has been about building a good environment for my kids, with no nonsense or foolishness in my house. We got a second chance to a new life, and we’re gonna do better.

Women’s Housing Coalition fought for me and my family. We had been told that they’re not really doing big families like mine anymore, but staff at WHC met us and figured out how to make it happen. I am so thankful for Women’s Housing Coalition for giving us a second chance.

Like I said, we’re getting back to normal. I found a therapist, and I love my therapist. I can come in all crazy and let it all out and I just feel so relieved and refreshed. I’m starting to reconnect with my family, starting to forgive. And it sounds strange, but when I’m hungry, I can get up and go cook something when I want. For the past two years, we had to eat on a schedule with small portions and were always still hungry after meals. My daughter and I love cooking, and especially having a place to do it. 

I’ve noticed a change in my kids too. When we were in the shelters, they would give me a LOT of attitude, especially back-talking. They were very angry about the choices I made regarding their brother and the impact it had on the whole family. On top of that, we were always all together sharing one room. We drove each other crazy. Everyone’s attitude is better, and we’re learning to live together again. They have their own bedrooms now, but they’ve started to go hang out with each other again.  

One of the things I’ve learned in these past years, and it is the thing I say whenever I go to meetings and support or encouragement groups, “I am in a situation, but I am not my situation.” It is really important to me that quote is used because we cannot define each other by what we’re going through, whatever circumstance or situation it is (good or bad.) We are each in a situation, but we are not our situations.

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