The Transformative Power of Housing: A Survivor’s Journey from Homelessness to Stability
December 18, 2023
Latifah Washington was homeless for half of her life, starting at 13 years old. Now in her 30s, she has found a safe and secure home at Eden Housing’s newly opened Blue Oak Landing. Latifah’s story sheds light on the critical role of housing in the lives of individuals who have experienced the harsh realities of homelessness. We had the opportunity to interview Latifah about her story and are grateful to be able to share her insights and advice with you here.
Before getting into Latifah’s story, it’s important to know that she does not define herself as a victim. She’s “a survivor. Motivated. A fighter.” Latifah was born into the foster care system and later adopted into an abusive family. After leaving home at just 13 years old, she became a victim of human trafficking. She quickly learned to think like a survivor. “You have to watch your front, your back, your right, and your left. Because when you’re in the streets, you can only rely on yourself. A lot of us (homeless) girls come from broken or group homes, but we all seek to be loved, to be safe and to be part of something meaningful. It’s important that we don’t victimiz[e] ourselves and allow ourselves to heal. That’s part of being a survivor.”
When thinking about the turning point in her life, Latifah remembers a conversation she had with her mother, who struggled with drug addiction, just before she passed. Her mother said “Don’t end up like me. You’re going to be better than me. You’re going to find a way forward in life.” Latifah took that advice to heart, for herself and her three daughters.
When she first resolved to take on her mother’s challenge, she didn’t have anywhere to go. She began applying for programs, and while she was turned down for several, with perseverance Latifah began to forge a path for herself. The lack of stability hindered her progress, and yet through unwavering determination Latifah secured a job at Amazon and began to attend school for job readiness and mental health education. Latifah’s advice to young girls going through the same thing is to keep the faith and never give up. When talking about getting turned away, she said “[I would] wipe my tears. Dust myself off and fix myself up. And I go back. I go to the next.”
Even with all the tenacity in the world, people in Latifah’s situation have impossible barriers to overcome to reach stability. It took Latifah three years to find Blue Oak Landing, which she now calls home. Reflecting on how she feels at her new home, Latifah said, “I haven’t smiled in a long time, and I’ve been smiling every day since I’ve been housed. Stability is so important to one’s long-term wellbeing.”
You will hear a lot of no’s in your life, but wipe away your tears, dust yourself off and try again.’ When you have a place to call home, it truly feels like the sky’s the limit.Latifah Washington
Now that she has a safe and stable place to live, Latifah is using her impressive motivation to continue her education online and work toward her diploma. Her new home supports Latifah’s ability to work, stay healthy, earn an education and plan for her future.
When asked about what’s next for her, she responded by saying, “Hopefully I can help give back, and mentor and help some of these girls in the group homes or who are homeless find a place like Blue Oak Landing. My advice to them would be to ‘keep the faith and never give up. You will hear a lot of no’s in your life, but wipe away your tears, dust yourself off and try again.’ When you have a place to call home, it truly feels like the sky’s the limit.”