For many National Capital Area residents living as an Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed individual, one step can lead them down a path to homelessness. For Sheila White, it was a flood in the basement of the apartment she was renting. Living off a monthly disability check, Sheila was barely scrapping enough for rent. When she couldn’t afford to pay off the damages, her landlord evicted her from the place she called home.
For the next three years, Sheila sought shelter wherever she could find it; when she exhausted her welcome with family, she slept on a park bench. Sheila lost a lot of herself to survive on the streets, however, hygiene remained important and something Sheila couldn’t live without. While on the streets, she went through great lengths to preserve her cleanliness – like sneaking into a MacDonald’s restrooms to take a sink shower or taking water from Starbucks to clean her teeth.
It took Sheila getting robbed at gunpoint to come to terms with her current condition and decide to make a change. She enrolled in a shelter and sought opportunities to tell her story. When she stumbled upon Street Sense Media, she knew she found her avenue. Street Sense Media’s free writing and photography workshop helped Sheila cultivate a vision before her future – a storyteller and an advocate for the homeless community.
Although Sheila continues to live in a shelter, the 57-year-old homeless advocate is fighting against all odds to obtain her bachelor’s degree in photo-journalism from the University of the District of Columbia. With her degree, Sheila plans to create more platforms in news and media for people experiencing homelessness to have a voice—with the hope of one day eliminating the problem altogether.
To learn more about how United Way NCA is fighting and advocating for our neighbors experiencing homelessness in the Nation’s Capital, please visit unitedwaynca.org/phc