After many ups and downs, including stays at various Twin Cities homeless shelters, LaTanya enrolled in the YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program. While eager to make a fresh start with her children, she felt alone and scared.
Once in the program, LaTanya’s fears were quickly put to rest. “I knew I had a family at the YWCA,” she said. Through this new community of support, LaTanya learned about her rights as a tenant, learned to manage her finances and improved her job search skills.Through it all, YWCA case managers were there to remind her that her hard work would soon pay off.
Within two years, her hard work had paid off: LaTanya had graduated from THP, was working as a Personal Care Attendant and was living in a house with her kids. She’s working to complete her associate’s degree in health, and hopes to continue on in school for pediatrics. “I’m excited to see what the next stage of my life brings,” she said.
For 14 years, Shalonda endured domestic violence. Although she was afraid for her life, she didn’t think she was strong enough to leave. It was her daughter, Aniya, who helped her to find the courage. “I’m raising a young girl,” she explains. “And she’s going to grow up to be a woman—I had to let her know that what she saw me going through was not okay.”
Determined to make a new life for herself and her daughter, Shalonda fled to a shelter and later, enrolled in our Transitional Housing Program. Although starting over is a daunting task, with support and encouragement Shalonda began to believe in herself and to set ambitious goals.
She always regretted dropping out of school as a teen and made earning a GED her first goal. Within six months, she achieved her goal and the success inspired her to dream bigger. “I was proud of myself,” she says. “That’s when I told myself I could go further.”
Today Shalonda has completed her first year of college and plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice. A new life in front of her, she knows that she and Aniya are on the right track. In just two short years everything has changed. “I feel like I’m stronger, I’m wiser and I respect myself,” she says.
Like many parents, Chanell spends a lot of time in the car, with drop-offs and pick-ups going between school and daycare, work and home. Chanell’s experience differs, however, in that she and her older daughter Jade once used their car for shelter while experiencing homelessness.
Jade’s father died in 2016, leaving Chanell struggling with grief and lack of stability in addition to being a mom. She stayed with friends, family and sometimes in the car, telling Jade they were “camping.”
Chanell and Jade found a few months of stability staying with her grandmother, but then were not allowed to stay due to the type of housing. That was when Chanell was referred to YWCA St. Paul’s Rapid Re-Housing program, which provides short-term supportive services so families can move out of shelters and into housing, as well as resources to learn about maintenance and budgeting so that they can create a foundation of true stability.
As Chanell and her case manager were searching for housing, Chanell, who was then expecting her second child, worked tirelessly to find an apartment that fit her budget as a single mother.
“I think people see homeless and they think, ‘oh they didn’t try,’” Chanell says. “Sometimes things just happen. People literally take having a home for granted. It’s everything, just for my kid to go to her own room and have her own bed. I really don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have this program.”
Since moving into her two-bedroom apartment with Jade, Chanell has given birth to her baby, Royal, and finally had the security and capacity to accomplish a longstanding goal: getting her GED. She’s now setting her sights on new goals to achieve, and will start online classes at St. Paul College in the summer.
“I’m just very proud of her,” Grace Nelson, Chanell’s case manager, says. “She has worked very hard and she’s just a phenomenal woman and deserves to know that.”
Homeless and unemployed, Shanika was determined to build a new life for herself and her three children. Setting her sights on the future, she enrolled in the YWCA St. Paul Transitional Housing Program (THP), where she found a new home and the support she needed to set and achieve ambitious goals.
No longer worrying where her family would sleep each night, Shanika began focusing on her education. With support from her case manager, she enrolled in a medical assistant program at Century College, and learned to successfully juggle attending classes with both parenting and working.
Shanika recently moved into an apartment in the community and hopes to continue on in school to become a registered nurse. “If you are taught the right skills…anything is possible,” she says. “The YWCA helped me put my goals in perspective and I’m so grateful for that.”
Tameisha and her sons became homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship. While staying in a domestic violence shelter, the family learned they had been accepted into the YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program (THP). They received the keys to their new apartment just in time for her son’s fifth birthday and it was the perfect gift.
Once settled at THP, Tameisha began working with her case manager to overcome past trauma and set goals for her future. Because her abuser had stolen from her and closely controlled when and how she could spend money—Tameisha made learning to budget a top priority.
She also chose to focus on her education by working to pursue an associate degree in criminal justice. “I watched my mom struggle my whole life,” Tameisha explains. “[She was] a single mother working 3 to 4 jobs, and I didn’t want that to be me.”
In May 2014, Tameisha earned her associate degree and the following fall, graduated from THP. Now living in an affordable rental unit in the community, she plans to continue her education and hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree and achieve her goal of becoming a probation officer.
Fearful for their safety, Tavanja bravely fled an abusive relationship to start a new life for herself and her three children. Although relieved to be free from the violence, starting over was especially difficult because it took her far away from family and friends.
After spending three months at a domestic violence shelter, Tavanja and her children joined the YWCA St. Paul Transitional Housing Program (THP), where she began working with her case manager to rebuild her life. Within a year, she made incredible strides, earning both her General Educational Development (GED) diploma and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) credentials.
Armed with new skills, Tavanja was ready to help when her neighbor suffered 3rd-degree burns in an apartment fire. Putting her training to use, she volunteered to provide aftercare and wound management.
Today, Tavanja is focused on expanding her credentials and achieving her goal of landing a job at a hospital. She’s currently enrolled in a phlebotomy program and looks forward to securing a position where she can use her passion for helping others.
“When I was in Lebanon, I didn’t have a dream,” Rozan says, reflecting on her childhood there. Only able to attend one year of school, getting an education seemed far out of reach—so when she later became a mother to two daughters, she made it priority to help them get access to the freedoms and opportunities she had not had.
At 21 years old and knowing no English, Rozan courageously fled Lebanon and came to the U.S. with her daughters. After four months living in the shelter, they were accepted into the YWCA Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program, where they moved into a two-bedroom townhome owned and operated by the YW. With the comfort of a safe place to call home, Rozan could now focus on school, take better care of her kids and begin to dream.
Today, Rozan’s dream of attaining her GED continues to get closer each day as she completes Level 7 English—and her dream for her daughters, who are both enrolled in school, is also coming true. “I had very hard past in my life, but I will never forget it,” she says. “Always, when I look to my past, I dream of my future.”
Australia had always had a job to support herself and her two sons. After switching to working part time in order to pursue her education full time, however, she wasn’t able to keep up with rent.
“I got one month behind in my rent, and I didn’t have a place to go, not even a relative or a friend or a boyfriend or anything where we could just go,” she remembers. Australia’s sister advised her to go into shelter.
Australia made and her sons were placed in transitional housing—a stabilizing step for families who are coming out of homelessness—for 22 months. During this time, she was able to pay off bills and save money. As she worked to make her situation more stable, she realized she had the inner strength and motivation to give back and help others.
One way that Australia gave back was by organizing the YWCA’s Donation Closet, a resource of household supplies for families. Her organizational skills helped the agency better serve families in situations similar to what Australia had been in. She can relate to the importance of the items there, saying, “It’s good to have something that makes it feel that your house is still a home.”
Now, Australia has a full time job and she rents a home for her family. She one day hopes to buy her own home for her boys to enjoy while they’re still young.
Her success is what the staff at the YWCA works their hearts out for each and every day.
“It’s more than just a community center, it’s more than just a place to work out,” she says. “It’s a place where people’s lives change, and without it the outcome would be different.”
Far away from friends and family, Irina spent seven years in an abusive marriage. “It was like living on a volcano,” she recalls, “never knowing when it would erupt.” With two children to think about, she knew she had to make a change.
Irina and her children sought refuge at a local domestic violence shelter. With just three dollars in her pocket and limited language skills, starting over seemed impossible. By enrolling in the YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program (THP), she was able to make a new start.
At the YWCA Irina found not only a safe place to call home but also the ongoing support she needed to heal, build new skills and move forward. Over the course of two years, she set and achieved ambitious goals like learning English, becoming financially independent and learning to drive. It’s now been a year since she completed the program and Irina continues to thrive.
Like many single parents, Irina’s days are busy. She works as a personal care attendant, volunteers with a Russian language program and sings in her church choir. In the future she hopes to attend college, but for now she’s satisfied seeing her children healthy and happy. Thinking back to where they were just three years ago, she’s proud she was able to change their lives. “It was a very big risk to do something,” she says. “Now I realize it was a bigger risk to do nothing.”