Nikita is using her new-found passion for photography to look at life through a different lens. The single mother of two is focusing on the future, thanks to United Way’s Streets to Home program, although snapshots from her past are never far away.
“Horrible, devastating, frustrating”
She’s describing the frustration and anxiety she recently experienced while living out of her car with her two daughters—an all too familiar story of a young family struggling with poverty and homelessness.
“We all go through something and we all have a similar story, but it also helps to know that too. ‘Oh, that person went through that, that’s the same thing I went through.’”
So how did she wind up homeless in King County, the place where she was born?
Her troubles started a decade ago when she moved from Seattle to Las Vegas. At first, life was good; she had a steady job working for TSA. But when four family members moved in and relied on Nikita’s income to sustain them, she says it was too much. She left her job and returned to the Seattle area with her young children.
“I felt like if I didn’t have that job, I wouldn’t have anything to offer anyone so people would have to go away. That was a choice I didn’t understand that I was making at the time but that was my coping mechanism.”
Instability followed. She and her daughters couch-surfed with family members in Washington for months, but the arrangements were always temporary.
“All the while, I’m not on my feet, not employed. My work is here and there with temp agencies. Meanwhile, I’m dealing with issues from Las Vegas and my mother passing.”
Nikita eventually found a job and secured a one-bedroom apartment. Things seemed to be looking up when she received a government voucher for housing and moved her family into a two-bedroom apartment.
But instability again reared its ugly head a year later when the landlord decided he no longer wanted to participate in the subsidized housing program. With nowhere to go, Nikita packed up her kids and her courage and moved into her car for several weeks.
“During the day, we could go places but during the night, we had to find somewhere to park, figure that part out.”
With no way to cook or keep food cold, Nikita and her daughters were forced to live on snacks and staples like bread and peanut butter.
Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, a United Way of King County agency partner that diverts people from the homeless shelter system and a long stay on the streets, learned of Nikita’s situation and immediately responded. They used flexible funds through United Way’s Streets to Home program to move Nikita and her daughters out of her car and into a hotel.
“They were incredible, they had my back. They did not let us fail.”
Urban League later found a room in a home for rent so the family had a place to stay while they searched for an apartment.
They found one a few months later. Today, Nikita and her daughters call it home.
“They love it. They run around here like no worry in the world and they’re home.”
Now, when Nikita looks through the lens of her camera, she sees her own story of poverty and homelessness replaced by one of stability and gratitude, a story of going from the streets to home.