Natalie’s Sisters is a Lex End Homelessness (LEH) Continuum of Care partner and has been serving Lexington women for over two decades. Their mission is to “extend hope, support, and God’s unconditional love to sex-trafficked and sexually exploited women through a first-touch approach providing respite, relationship, and referrals to community resources.”
In 2012, a Sister that the team had served was murdered, and as the team evolved to add more services and support, they renamed themselves Natalie’s Sisters in her honor. Today, Natalie’s Sisters supports women in the community through their drop-in center, meal drop offs, jail and hospital visits, community resource referrals, and more.
Recently, we had the honor of hearing a little bit more about what it is like to experience homelessness in Lexington from an anonymous Sister who got evicted due to tough financial times during the onset of the Covid pandemic. Natalie’s Sisters’ housing specialist also shared with us the important work Natalie’s Sisters does to support women in the community experiencing homelessness and why this work matters. Below are their stories.
Anonymous Natalie’s Sisters Client
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself—your family background, childhood, or anything else you’d like to share about who you are.
I was raised in a little town in Eastern Kentucky. I was the youngest of three sisters and spent my childhood helping my dad on the farm.
2. What is your experience with homelessness and/or housing challenges?
It’s very, very lonely being on the streets. You always have to be looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody comes up on you trying to steal your stuff. I’ve had my ID stolen multiple times and it’s hard to get a new one when you don’t have an address to have it sent to.
Trying to find housing is like pulling teeth. Every time I walked into a complex to apply, it felt like they were judging me and making assumptions just because they could tell I was homeless.
3. What circumstances in your life led to you being unhoused, if you’re comfortable answering?
I separated from my husband and had to move out on my own. I thought I’d be able to afford living on my own. But when Covid hit, I lost my job and then got evicted. I wasn’t able to pay my utilities either and it caught up to me.
4. What challenges or triumphs have you faced when seeking support from service providers?
It’s very hard to try to find the right person to talk to. It feels like I bounce from place to place to get help for different things. The people I do get help from are great though. They really put it all on the line for us and are willing to do anything to help.
5. What’s one thing you wish people understood about homelessness?
We don’t want to be here on the streets. But it’s not easy to just wake up one day and find a house. The things we go through on the streets change us mentally, which only makes it harder.
Natalie’s Sisters’ Housing Specialist and Client Service Coordinator
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself—personal, professional, or anything else you’d like to share about who you are.
I was born and raised in central Kentucky, and I went to school at the University of Kentucky where I got my bachelor’s in social work. After graduation I got hired at Natalie’s Sisters as a Housing Specialist and Client Service Coordinator.
2. How did you get involved with your current role and/or homelessness advocacy more broadly?
I had originally started at Natalie’s Sisters as a student doing an internship then got hired to help lead the new housing program.
3. What does a typical day of work look like for you?
It depends vastly on whether I’m working with clients who have vouchers, who have income, or who have neither. I spent a good two months at the beginning of my job here simply calling landlords around town trying to figure out if they accepted Section 8 and what their tenant selection criteria was. I found that a small fraction of complexes had criteria that would actually work with our population. Some had criteria that would require you to have a 650 minimum credit score or to make up to 3.5 times the amount of rent in monthly income. And, landlords can also refuse to rent to applicants who have drug charges on their criminal background checks, which is common among the homeless population. So on a regular day I could be doing anything from talking with landlords and the Housing Authority to helping clients apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The main thing is helping all clients with supportive services, so things like getting IDs and social security cards, helping them do anything that needs to be submitted online, and more.
4. What is the value of the work you do?
The work I do with the homeless population is so important because coming out of homelessness is no easy task. A lot of these factors are generational and need to be addressed in order to help this population. There are certain things you need to obtain before you even start thinking about trying to find housing. Social security cards and IDs are most important, but both are hard to get if you do not have a home address. You can’t get a job to pay rent if you don’t have a mailing address. Similarly, you also need an address to open a bank account. All of these actions needed to come out of homelessness are tied to not having a home to begin with. That is why helping this population is so important because it is not a simple process to navigate.
5. What is one thing you wish Lexington community members knew about homelessness?
If finding and retaining housing was a simple task, there would be no homeless population. Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is not that simple when it comes to housing. This population is fighting an uphill battle and patience and leniency is needed for anything to come to fruition.
Get involved with LEH by joining the Continuum of Care today. Partnership is free and highly encouraged for any organization or person working in the field of human services. You can also contact one of our many partners, such as Natalie’s Sisters, to ask about opportunities to get involved. Learn more on our website or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.
To learn more about and to donate to Natalie’s Sister’s, visit their Facebook page for regular updates on their current needs. And to learn more about the recently passed House Bill 21 (HB 21), which seeks to streamline the process for individuals experiencing homelessness to obtain state identification, visit the Kentucky General Assembly’s website.