LaKeethia Poole is a mother of 5, a nursing student, and a manager at work, but just a short time ago, life looked very different. In 2016, LaKeethia was homeless. When asked about the circumstances that led her to living unsheltered, she said, “It’s not realistic to think that there is just one thing that causes you to become homeless. It’s like a rolling, ball-and-chain effect, like you’ve got a chain wrapped around your foot, the ball starts to roll and it drags you with it.”
Living in Greenville, NC, LaKeethia was working and raising her four boys when she found out she was pregnant with a baby girl. She was excited, but that soon turned to worry as the arrival of her fifth child was premature. To make matters worse, someone stole her debit card and took her savings while she was in the hospital caring for her new little one.
LaKeethia had the love and support of her family, helping her with the children and paying for her rent, but she made the decision to stop receiving that help saying, “I can’t allow them to be responsible for me because I’m a grown up and I have five children.” Always feeling the most secure and stable in Durham, NC, she moved her family to the Triangle. Initially they stayed with her sister, but that was not a permanent solution. LaKeethia met a family who let them live in their unoccupied townhouse while getting back on her feet. After two months, the owners ask her to move out. LaKeethia said she was angry at herself because she felt she should have done more during that time, though she had just gotten a new job. “Here I am thinking I’m taking 10 steps in the right direction, but there are 20 that threw me back. That’s the ball-and-chain.” At that point LaKeethia explained to her children that they didn’t have a home and that they may have to sleep in their car. With a brave face, her oldest said, “It doesn’t matter where we stay; we just have to stay together.”
LaKeethia reached out for help and went through the Coordinated Intake process at Durham’s Department of Social Services and soon moved into the shelter at Families Moving Forward, a collaborative partner of Housing for New Hope. She had saved $500 and was excited to be getting assistance to get back on her feet. That’s when depression set in. LaKeethia said that her “mind got off track and she started to focus on how to be a good homeless person.” She ended up quitting her job.
LaKeethia felt she was letting her children down. “Some of the women in the shelter, people don’t know the tears they cry when they are behind the door. I remember saying a prayer that God would kill me before the morning - knowing I have kids - I felt they would be better off with my mom because I got them here.”
That is when Housing for New Hope stepped in. We were able to find a three bedroom apartment for LaKeethia and her children and they moved in looking forward to a bright future, filled with HOPE.
Her children became “her push, her drive” to do more. “I wanted to show them at even at your worst; you come back at your best. You don’t have to stay where you are. That can’t be an option. The bottom is never an option. I had to get them back to wanting more and driving for more. So I had to be that example.”
Moving into their new home gave her children “peace of mind” and they no longer had to lie about where they lived for fear of bullying at school. With re-ignited energy, LaKeethia started 2017 with a new job, a new car through a partnership with Wheels for Hope, and even received a promotion to a supervisory position. Within four months at that job, LaKeethia was recruited for a supervisory position at another agency.
LaKeethia is well on her way to being completely self-sufficient again. While she is thankful for the support of Housing for New Hope, she says that it is time for her to move forward. In March she and her children will be moving into a 3 bedroom HOME in Durham. Setting a constant example for bettering oneself, LaKeethia has re-enrolled in nursing school to take her remaining two classes.
“I’m happy that I went through everything. It was a humbling experience. I remember I used to see homeless people on the street and I used to think that there was something they did to put themselves there. And I had no remorse (sympathy) for them until I got there myself. Some people put up a conscious fight and lose the battle.”
When asked what homelessness means for her after going through so much, LaKeethia said, “It is more than what people perceive it to be. It’s not just a physical state of being. Homelessness is an emotional state. There is no greater loss than the loss of your reality.”