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Latrice's Story

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What is your name?
Latrice Steward

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois. I have an older brother and sister, and I’m a part of a large family. I moved to Minnesota two years ago, after having my 3rd child, I wanted to advance my career from a CNA to an LPN through schooling. My intention was to go to school here in Minnesota, in order to return to Chicago after finishing. I moved with my children’s dad, with my in-laws, because I didn’t know anyone else in other states (like Wisconsin, etc.) and he had family here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself? (Interests, hobbies, favorite food..)
I’ve been a CNA since 2003, and my heart isn’t in being a CNA anymore. I started online classes for being a healthcare administrator to be in charge of something. Right now we are trying to establish a family photo business, in order to help capture memories of families that might have been lost over the last year with the pandemic. I love being a mom and making my kids happy. Being a parent is a full-time job. I have a 14-year-old son, a six-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old daughter.

Who/what inspires you?
My family inspires me. The good ones and the bad ones. If I didn’t go through the things I did with my family, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today and be in a place to move forward.

What is something that makes you happy?
Making my kids happy, me being able to make someone else happy. Even though I can’t give other people stuff throughout my situation being homeless, I wasn’t able to give people physical stuff, but it's a lot of people through my situation that I was able to give them something they needed. They just needed someone to listen to them or give them advice, and I could provide a whole new perspective. I just like helping others when I listen to them and give them advice. It's not just about physically helping people.

What brought you to the situation you’re currently in?
My in-laws got me into the situation I am currently in. When we got here I was seeking things from my family that I shouldn’t have. Seeking out those things ended up leading to harm for my kids, and this led to family chastising my kid. I sought from the wrong people. [The situation] got physical where we are in court now with it, it got too physical that we got put out, it got to the point where we lost everything. That brought me into the situation I am in. I was working at the nursing homes, and at that point, I’m like we don’t have anywhere to go. I ended up seeing the tents on Broadway, and I thought it was a family reunion. I was thinking maybe we could go buy ourselves a tent? I walk up and ask them you know, is this a family reunion? And they tell me no this is for the homeless. I am like what, the homeless, how can I get in here. [They] told me to bring my kids. I met Janelle and [they] led me to an encampment somewhere near Trinity park, and ever since it's been nothing but elevation. I ended up losing my job as a CNA through the process.

What difficulties have you experienced in trying to get out of your situation?
Some of the difficulties before I even got home was the rent, like trying to get an apartment out here was stressful. I had gotten scammed trying to get an apartment out here, for like $900. I got a police report but I never ended up following up with it. All the difficulties trying to get out of this was dealing with outside people that really didn’t appreciate [the homeless population]. Like when we were out there they were yelling to get out the park, you know being mean about it. You know that was stressful. But dealing with other people that don’t want to deal with homeless people because they don’t know their situation was the hardest part about it. Or if they felt like we dressed a certain way because we still tried to keep our MO up. We didn’t want to look like we were homeless, so if we look a certain way people will still treat us like "you ain’t homeless, I don’t wanna help you." Like this man may look homeless might be playing people, but I am the one that really needs people and I really work. The best part about [this situation] was that my kids weren’t really affected by it. I made it seem like we were on a camping trip, I bought some s'mores, we made it seem like it was a real campout. The kids were comfortable, they were comfortable in that situation, so that wasn’t a difficult moment. Dealing with outside people that really don’t understand your situation, is the part that is difficult. People are judgmental when it comes to a homeless person.

How did you come to know about ZACAH?
I was in the park, and one of the representatives, Yusra, said hey if you guys are looking for an apartment, my organization can help you guys with the first month's rent and securities. She ended up giving me her number, and at that time we were getting removed from parks, where the police removed us out of the park. I told the man holding the encampment down, to reach out to the lady that had bought us food. Reach out to her and see if she would help us cause it was really raining. He called her and she ended up putting us in a hotel room. We stayed in the hotel room for 6 weeks. School started back up during the process, and I had to reach out again. I asked her to ask the founder of the company to give me 2 more weeks. She gave me two more weeks, I found the job, I found the crib and I moved in. She paid the first month's rent and the security. I was determined. Faith with no work is dead. You got all this faith in God, and you put no work in you don’t get a free ride or fancy car. When I got out there I felt so motivated, amped up, and grateful for everything. I ended up moving into a three-bedroom apartment and she ended up helping me with my rent. They ended up bringing me this [patio furniture], they brought me everything. I’m talking about beds, socks, spoons, blenders, anything you need in the kitchen. She even brought her mom and dad and they brought my kids Christmas gifts. I even hooked [Yusra] up with another person, and she ended up helping another person with their apartment. I'm grateful to do that to connect that, and I don’t want anything from that. If [I was homeless in Chicago] I wouldn’t be able to make it, because we don’t have people like in Minnesota. There are some really good people, but there are some really bad people as well.

What’s your experience with ZACAH?
Wonderful, excellent. I want to expand it. I want to help some more people through it, I want to be doing the same thing they are doing. Anything you want me to do, I’m going to help you through it. You want me to pass out stuff, pass out food, cook in the same pots you gave me? I got you.

What do you want other people to know about you?
That I’m real, genuine, independent, loving, kind. Sometimes I can be too real. I miss my mom, I love my kids, I miss my family. I want to get into a business, I want to open a daycare center using my diploma in childcare management. We need to help these kids, the generation is flipping over. We are the ones that got to help them. I’m not the average 35 years old, I’m motivated to get my son into college. I’m 35 tryna get online classes. Finish, finish, finish school. I want to break the chain of our family members not going to college. If you don’t have an education you aren’t gonna get anything.

Who is your community here?
My companion now, I’ve been with my companion and he gets me through. Having faith, and praying. He’s been getting us through, and he builds up everything for me. I wanna find a church home in the community, and I wanna sing for the lord. I have to give him something back. God got me through this situation. I had a lady come and she enjoyed my kids, she wanted to reach out to us. Her mom had wanted to buy me a camper for us to stay in. Anything to get us off the streets. She put us in an Airbnb for 13 days. Who do you know that would pay $120 a night for someone they didn’t know. God sent her to us. But yes I’m grateful.

What has been the most helpful thing that people have done for you?
Anybody from the state of Minnesota that fixed us breakfast, that gave us socks, blankets, that gave me a target card that didn’t know me, a generator, I’m grateful for everything.

The world would be a better place with more _____.
Nice people, caring people. This is my first time ever dealing with racism, throughout working. I’ve never had to experience it before, and I have to experience that now. I’ve never dealt with that. Cut that out.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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