When you can’t make ends meet, when people are hoping you will fail, when “home” is a hotel room or worse, life seems impossible. That’s where LaToya found herself in the days before she discovered Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter.
“All of my money went towards hotel rooms,” LaToya said. “My son and I survived, but it was frustrating because I really wanted my own place. I was basically paying somebody else’s rent and barely having money in my pocket.”
For almost a year, she and her son had been living in and out of hotel rooms or a car. The struggle to get by was all too real, and she wanted more for herself, her young son and the child she was pregnant with.
When she discovered Home of Hope and became a guest, her life began to turn around.
“If it wasn’t for Home of Hope, I probably would have failed,” she said. “Before, I was in and out of relationships – not really knowing what’s good for me and what’s not. I was in a lot of toxic friendships. But being here helps you open your eyes up to know your own worth, to know what type of people you need in your life and what type of people you don’t.”
Not only did LaToya gain perspective on her own value, she learned how to grow through whatever life throws at her.
“My car has broken down and I’ve lost a job while living at Home of Hope, but since I’ve been here, I’ve always had somebody mentor me and remind me, ‘That’s not the end. You can do it’, she said.
“It makes me want to get up in the morning, and instead of just being depressed, I remind myself that I can do this, pregnant or not. Even if I’ve got to put on a big shirt, I’m going to go find a job. I’m going to go find a mechanic. I’m going to go talk to somebody.”
The stigma around homelessness can be overwhelmingly negative, but LaToya has found a place where she and her son are together and safe.
“To be able to be somewhere and not be judged [because I’m homeless], that is a blessing. I thought about that every day when I first got to Home of Hope,” she said.
“Here, they will help you mentor your child to get them where they need to be so that you and your child can stay in the same environment. That is a blessing, a real blessing. I think about that all the time.
“My son’s dad wants to see me fall, but since I’ve been here, I walk around with my head held high.
Knowing there’s someone on your side makes all the difference. And this self-confidence, in LaToya’s own words, is the best lesson she’s learned in her time at Home of Hope.
“Keep going,” she said. “Even if you feel like you can’t, get up and do it. One of the staff members taught me that. Being here helps me save up, think, be more organized, and figure out where I want to be – in a really good mental state, not only for myself but for my son and my baby.”
Being at Home of Hope hasn’t taken away the challenges of life, but instead has given this mom the tools she needs to succeed. LaToya has gained skills that will propel her towards her goals in all areas of life. And she’s seen that no matter her circumstances, she has value.
“My dream for the future is to own my own home one day. I want to be able to continue to budget my money and stack on my savings account, not live check by check,” she said. “And I want to finish school to get my nursing degree, because I already started.
“Now that I know the resources out here, it has changed my whole mindset – the way I think and the way I am, even towards people and relationships. It’s changed my life.”