Natasha is a mother of five, grandmother of nine, devoted friend, talented cook, gifted gospel singer, and a passionate woman of faith. She’s also a voice of hope for what is possible in overcoming homelessness.
For a brief behind-the-scenes excerpt from our interview with Natasha, including a sneak peek into her love of gospel music, listen below or click here.
Natasha was born and raised in San Francisco, and had lived for much of her life in her grandmother’s house, up until she lost the property to foreclosure in 2010. The extreme pain and stress of losing her home prompted a massive heart attack the day after the foreclosure, causing her to be hospitalized in a coma for several weeks. After recovering from the heartbreaking loss of her home — but fearful of having to sleep on the street — Natasha lived in hotels until she exhausted her resources, then sought out local shelters in the area for temporary relief. While on a housing waitlist, Natasha bounced around from shelter to shelter for more than a year, often in poor conditions, until January of 2012, when a case worker helped find her placement at the Essex – one of Community Housing Partnership’s supportive housing properties in the Tenderloin.
At the Essex, Natasha brought joy to other residents who were struggling – always offering a home-cooked meal to fellow residents in need, a meaningful conversation in the lobby, a piece of solace in the form of a song. But she herself was struggling with serious health complications as the result of multiple heart attacks and strokes – then relapsed from her sobriety while grieving the death of her partner of 23 years. Turning to Resident Services for support, Natasha forged strong connections with her on-site counselors, who quickly became a regular source of strength and encouragement for her as she began to maintain her sobriety and manage her health. “The residents and staff [at the Essex] helped carry me through — they were my support system in which I found my rock,” Natasha shares.
The simple-but-powerful combination of housing with support services – along with a helping hand from her all-star Resident Services Team Lead, Rafael – gave Natasha a newfound level of stability in her life, and a foundation in which she could sustainably move beyond supportive housing. “I am so blessed because I was homeless for thirteen months, and then God blessed me with a key to move here, and then Rafael was so instrumental in helping me to find a new place to move on to,” Natasha explains with tear-filled eyes. “I just didn’t ever think I would actually be able to get a one-bedroom apartment on my own and pay rent.”
When asked what she is most looking forward to about her huge new one-bedroom home near Parkmerced, Natasha shares her plans for using the building’s gym and weight room to get healthy, exploring the 158 acres of property, cooking and baking in her new oven, and hosting her family for the holidays this year. “I already told my kids Thanksgiving is at my house this year,” she shares gleefully. “And I am actually going to have a Christmas tree in my window that you can see from the outside, for the first time in over 35 years.”
Natasha didn’t come to the Essex in the best circumstances; but with her faith, perseverance, and support from the Community Housing Partnership family, she was able to pave a new, brighter future for herself. Her journey embodies Community Housing Partnership’s core philosophy: that when given adequate and tailored support — all people possess the capacity to achieve a high degree of self-sufficiency.
“Whatever it is you need to do, that you don’t like in your life, no one can change it but you,” Natasha aptly adds, before heading to the elevator to reunite with her friends in the upstairs lobby.
In the moments when making progress in addressing homelessness feels hopeless, stories like Natasha’s remind us that it is possible to make progress, one life at a time. Together — with your support — we can change the lives of more people, like Natasha, who have experienced homelessness.
You too can be part of the neighborhoods and city we love through volunteering, donating, or spreading the word about the issues surrounding homelessness in San Francisco. Join a community that’s changing lives and building a brighter future for our neighbors in need, and make a gift of support today: