Shauna is thriving. She works for Westhab’s facilities department at the Dayspring Community Center. She is proud to have a job she loves and is successful at, and to be living independently. When she was living at the Coachman Family Center with her two sons in 2012, things were different. Living in a shelter and sharing a room with her boys was overwhelming. After losing everything, it was hard for Shauna to keep her spirits up. Although change was not all that new to Shauna.
Arriving in the U.S. from Grenada in 1989, Shauna remembers thinking that sand was falling from the sky the first time it snowed. Back in Grenada, there had been no indoor plumbing or electricity—both the kitchen and bathroom were outside. Teachers were allowed to hit kids at her school, and she rode her bike wherever she needed to go. Shauna remembers shouting, “the stairs are moving” the first time she saw an escalator. Young and alone, Shauna wanted to go home and didn’t understand why she couldn’t. The American family who adopted Shauna explained that they were her new family and this was her new home. She was not convinced.
Shauna’s new family moved around a lot, and she attended several different schools. Shauna describes herself as a tomboy. She played football in high school and graduated from Irvington. Soon afterward, she had her first son, Jeremey. Her younger son Jimmy arrived thirteen months later. Shauna worked as a security officer and later as a construction worker to support her family.
When work in construction dried up and Shauna was laid off, she lost her home and moved into the Coachman with her boys. Shauna kept to herself at first, taking her time to warm up to the staff. She vowed to get herself and her kids out as soon as possible. Westhab staff helped Shauna help herself by believing in her when she had lost confidence. After six months in the shelter, Shauna moved into transitional housing with her kids. She lived there for a year, receiving support, before finding her own apartment. Shauna was thrilled to be living independently, but it was not without challenges. In the beginning, there were violent incidents in the community. Later, a pipe collapsed and half the building was condemned. Despite the problems, Shauna pushed on and began to work her way into the fabric of the community.
Jeremy and Jimmy became regulars at the Westhab afterschool program in Nodine Hill. They loved playing sports and developed strong relationships with Westhab staff. Shauna began volunteering at Westhab’s Elm Street Community Resource Center, which was home to the food pantry and also provided community services including counseling. The support Shauna received helped her to grow as a person and become stronger.
In 2018 Westhab’s employment services staff encouraged Shauna to apply for a position in Westhab’s facilities department. They also helped her with her resume. Shauna got the job at Dayspring in May and even moved into a two-bedroom Westhab apartment on Elm Street in December. She is flourishing. She loves her job—she loves using her skills to fix things, and she loves working with and for her community.
Walking around the neighborhood, Shauna feels a great sense of pride. She is an indispensable and valued member of the community. She is often stopped and thanked for the work she does, and people are always asking her questions about Dayspring. Shauna has been through a lot and has come a very long way. And although no one will ever mistake Nodine Hill for the West Indies, it looks like Shauna is finally home.