Tashay, originally from Miami, grew up in the foster care system, “That played a big role in my homelessness because I’m that two percent that didn’t have reunification with family. Not everyone who comes out of foster care has reunification with their aunt or a long-lost relative, and I was that one who didn’t have anybody. My mom has AIDs, living in Miami, and I don’t even know if she’s alive right now, to be honest with you.”

After experiencing physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse throughout her childhood, she says, “Finally, when I turned 18 and the foster care system let me go, I just felt free. I went from complete lockdown to complete freedom, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t have the right guidance or the right skills to learn on the streets or anything like that.” “They don’t have any programs; nothing for kids like me. So, I just dealt with it all these years the best way I know how.”

On her own in Miami, she turned to the streets and sometimes stayed at friend’s houses, “It was sporadic, it was everywhere, I was everywhere. I was trying to find myself – I’m still trying to find myself now. It was just hard figuring out where I’m going to sleep, where I’m going to go. My friends didn’t really know I was homeless. I would just be like, ‘Yo, can I stay the night? I don’t feel like going home.’ I would sleep in the corner of somebody’s floor. I’d sleep in the park sometimes and people wouldn’t even know. People wouldn’t know because I had this façade up, like this person that everyone needed to see, not the real me. So nobody knew that I was homeless, on the street, and didn’t have anywhere to go.”

“I came up here because there was a lot of stuff in Miami. There was a drug called flakka that was out. I was on it for 3 to 4 months binging. My friends didn’t know I was on it, and I was losing a lot of weight. I wasn’t eating. Before my friends found out I was on that drug, I needed to get off of it myself, because people were acting crazy on it. I didn’t know what it was or how to get off. All I know is somebody gave it to me and I’m hooked.”

Realizing she had to get away from that lifestyle, Tashay got on a bus to Orlando. “I came up here because I’ve got nothing to lose. I don’t have kids. I don’t have any family. I’m hopeless, I’m already homeless so what is there to lose?” Since being at the Coalition, she says, “I’m not worrying about where I’m going to lay down my head. It took a big stress off so I can start looking at other aspects of my life.” With help from Aspire Health Partners and her case manager, Stefanie, “I just make sure I work with my case plan and develop a relationship with my case manager, because at the end of the day, that’s the person who I have to be real with in order to help myself.”

Working construction jobs and continuing her case plan, she tells us, “I’ve just been trying to get my case worker to help me dissect parts of my life. Because I can’t dissect everything by myself. I need to just get it out verbally to somebody on the other side of the fence that can help me break it down piece by piece. Since I’ve been doing that, it’s like I started learning more about myself, trying to become more responsible and being on the right track. I want to get a forklift certification. So that’s my next thing.”

Along with pursuing her goals of getting her own place and starting a new life, Tashay expresses herself through her voice. “I’m a songwriter. That’s how I express myself. Rapping or singing or poetry. It’s crazy, but one of these days I’ll be able to write a book or talk to somebody who’s coming up in the system or leaving the system and be like ‘Listen, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Trust me.’ And hopefully the system will get better programs too.”

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