Natasha is a mother of five, grandmother of nine, devoted friend, talented cook, gifted gospel singer and a passionate woman of faith. Born and raised in San Francisco, Natasha lived for much of her life in her grandmother’s house, until it was foreclosed in 2010. The stress of losing her home prompted a massive heart attack, after which she was hospitalized and in a coma for several weeks.
A place to recover
After recovering from her heart attack and fearful of having to sleep on the street, Natasha lived in hotels until her resources were exhausted. She then sought out local shelters in the area for temporary relief. While on a housing waitlist, Natasha moved from shelter to shelter for more than a year, until in January of 2012 when a case worker helped find her placement at the Essex – one of HomeRise’s supportive housing properties in the Tenderloin.
Finding a home
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. She herself was struggling with serious health complications – 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 helped carry me through — they were my support system in which I found my rock.”
The simple-but-powerful combination of housing with support services – along with a helping hand from Resident Services member Rafael – gave Natasha a newfound level of stability in her life, a foundation in which she could sustainably leave supportive housing behind. “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.”
The future looks bright
When asked about her huge new one-bedroom home near Park Merced, Natasha shared her plans for using the building’s gym to get healthy, explore the 158 acres of property, cook and bake in her new oven, and host her family for the holidays. “I already told my kids Thanksgiving is at my house this year, 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 came to the Essex at a low time in her life; but with faith, perseverance and support from the HomeRise family, she was able to pave a new future for herself. “Whatever it is you need to do, that you don’t like in your life, no one can change it but you.” She is a hopeful reminder that a home has the power to stabilize a person’s life.
For a brief behind-the-scenes excerpt from our interview with Natasha, including a sneak peek into her love of gospel music, click here.