At the 19th Annual Have-a-Heart Gala, our guests heard from Latasha about how she and her children became homeless. Here is their story.
After the death of her fiance and her children's young father to brain cancer, Latasha and her family struggled to pay the bills and rent. During that difficult time, her children Shawnell who was 8, 6-year-old son, Juwan and Sierra 4, were evicted from their home and spent the next 7 years living in 20 different places in 4 different states.
There were many reasons they couldn’t stay where they were living: living conditions, inability to keep up with the rent and even discrimination. Juwan was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 3 months old and his bus driver refused to lift his wheelchair onboard every day.
After staying in 4 different shelters across Chicago, Latasha found herself with nowhere else to turn. She googled “homeless shelter” and landed at Housing Forward and went to a shelter in Oak Park the next night. The wheelchair that Juwan used caused some difficulties accessing the shelter and Housing Forward temporarily found accommodations at a local motel until a more permanent solution could be found.
Latasha met with the supportive services team that week and was connected to a housing case manager. From there, they worked with Latasha and her family to get them started on the path towards finding them a stable home.
Once she was helped with permanent supportive housing, she was able to focus more on her children and especially, Juwan and his special needs. However, because their new apartment was on the 2nd floor, they had trouble getting Juwan and his wheelchair up the stairs. This was another occasion in which the staff at Housing Forward were able to help.
In partnership with the Proviso Township, the Progress Center for Independent Living and their landlord, Teresa Licari, a donation of a handicap accessible and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant chair lift was installed. According to Juwan, “he just loves pressing the button on that chair because it gives him his freedom.”
Latasha and her family first came to Housing Forward for shelter, but she says that what she left with was much more. “Today, I have been working at a temporary job and I am looking for a permanent position. My younger children are attending a school that they love and my daughter is looking forward to being able to participate in after-school activities. We live in a three-bedroom apartment and it’s good to have a place to call home,” she expresses. “I am so thankful for the team at Housing Forward and the donors who make it possible to help families like mine.”