Having a place to call home is the basis of stability for most of us, and when it is lost or taken from us, other areas of our life are severely impacted as well. Throughout her journey of homelessness, Maya found herself grasping to find that consistency and stability. All she wanted to do was start her career and focus on herself, but multiple barriers thrust her into chaos and kept her stuck in a cycle of homelessness.

Before 2012, Maya was preparing to finish cosmetology school and start her career, but then her mother got sick. Caring for her mother quickly became a full-time job, so she put a pause on her studies to serve as her mother’s caregiver. In 2013, her mother passed away. Now, with no family to support her, no steady job, and no place to call her own, Maya’s friends let her sleep on their couches. She was constantly concerned of being a burden to them, and the stress of her situation and feelings of shame became overwhelming. While Maya may not have been living on the street initially, she didn’t have secure housing. For four long years, her housing situation remained precarious and she continued to “couch surf.”

After much time searching for and stringing together part-time jobs, Maya was offered a job in a different state. Jumping on the opportunity to start anew, she actively looked for another place to stay. Thankfully, she was able to stay with a friend until she saved up enough money to find her own place. Excited by the stability this new job provided, Maya began to feel like herself again. But suddenly her grandmother became sick, and she had to move back to Chicago to care for her. After the loss of her grandmother, Maya found herself homeless and jobless again. Much like the first time, Maya was forced to rely on the safety net of her friends for places to sleep, but she was determined to regain stability and a place of her own.

After moving from couch to couch, Maya noticed that couch surfing was affecting her employability, and without reliable income, it was impossible for her to find housing. As a result, Maya had to make a difficult choice and decided it was time to stay in a shelter. As helpful as it was having a consistent place to sleep and a Case Manager, she notes that the shelter’s adherence to a strict schedule made it difficult to maintain certain jobs, like the overnight shifts she was working during her stay.

In 2020, Maya finally made her way through the Coordinated Entry System and was placed at our Rebecca Johnson Apartments where she has a lease and a key to her own apartment. It’s a place where she can relax, work on her own schedule and focus on her goals.

“There’s so much peace here… I have more sense of peace. I’m much calmer. I’m in my own space…My mental health is in a stable place. Even my spirit is settled. What I mean by settled is ain’t in a uproar of confusion. I don’t have to worry where I am going to sleep tonight or if I am able to get back in the shelter. It’s just the little things. I don’t need to sign my name on a shower sheet to make sure I am able to take a shower no more. Hey, it’s just peace.”


Now Maya is starting to focus on herself and her mental health. She is working towards new goals, like building her credit, paying off student loans, finishing cosmetology school and starting her career. While all these goals won’t happen at once, she says she is happy to have the support around her from Deborah’s Place while she starts her new journey. Because of Maya’s resilience and her commitment to finding a place of her own, she now is able to be more self-sufficient and is teaching herself news ways of taking care of herself. She is finding her peace.

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