“My mom told me that she loved me and that she would see me again, and the very next day she died.”
Leona’s mom had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Leona had been her care giver for over a decade before she passed. After her mother’s death, her uncle was named guardian and she went to live with him. Within the year, her uncle kicked her out of his home because she was gay and had a girlfriend.
At 17, Leona found herself on the streets with her girlfriend, who was pregnant from a previous relationship. Neither had any money. They were living in a tent and still trying to get to Evergreen High School each morning. “It was hard camping out when the weather turned cold,” said Leona. “And I was worried about my girlfriend.”
Leona’s sister learned about her situation and reached out and invited Leona and her partner to move in with her family. Unfortunately, this added stress to her sister’s young family and they were asked to leave after a few months. Her girlfriend left her to have the baby and Leona was once again out on her own in the winter months with no resources.
She went to a large co-ed shelter downtown and her first night there, her clothes, the food she had with her and even her shoes were stolen. The staff gave her what they had: a jumpsuit and plastic clogs to wear with no socks. Leona spent six months at that shelter until she learned of a women’s shelter program in Greenwood. Other women staying there told her about Elizabeth Gregory Home.
“EGH is the best place ever! You can literally take a shower, do your laundry and cook your own food the way you like it,” said Leona. She now enjoys cooking and volunteers several days a week to cook hot meals for the women.
Now 24 years old, Leona is working on getting her General Education Diploma (GED). With the help of EGH staff she has earned her food handler’s permit and has recently landed a job at a local restaurant chain. Her first paycheck was December 3rd and she is looking forward to stability and the next challenge of securing permanent housing.
“Besides being in your own place, I feel like EGH is my home. There’s just no place else I feel like that.” Leona continued, “They don’t care that I’m gay…they accept me for who I am.”
UPDATE: Leona continues to work full time and just got her own place – a one bedroom two bathroom apartment in South Seattle. She is so excited to have her own kitchen as she loves to cook.