Warning: In order to honor the true stories of our veterans, their experiences are presented to you as told and may include difficult themes such as sexual assault, substance abuse, and suicide. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Taz was forced to overcome an unthinkably traumatic and tumultuous childhood. The daughter of two young parents, she was raised by her grandmother in a neighborhood divided. As a multiracial young woman, Taz experienced constant racism. Not black enough to be black, not white enough to be white, Taz found it hard to be accepted for who she was.
Taz’s unstable living situation made her vulnerable to predators and at just 13, she survived an assault, which led to pregnancy. With the help of her family, Taz worked to raise her daughter, but knew that - to be a good mother - she needed greater stability. Despite these challenges, Taz never lost her love for education and passion for helping others, and decided to join the Army.
As one of the few women training as a diesel mechanic, Taz took pride in fixing engines just as well as her male teammates, repairing the trucks that soldiers trained in before being sent overseas. As the United States entered wartime, Taz played an essential part in the preparation of training equipment, necessary for getting our soldiers prepared for combat. Working with people from all walks of life, Taz felt like she finally had a place where she was valued and accepted.
But then, Taz was faced with a challenging decision.
Unable to maintain full custody while she was in active service, Taz knew that she wanted to raise her daughter herself, so she did the only thing she could: she left the military life that she loved.
At 21-years-old, Taz returned home. Surrounded by parents in the midst of divorce, Taz struggled to cope with the instability of her environment and the trauma of her childhood. It soon became clear that Taz’s mental health was in crisis. Then, when her father died in 2018, she lost the one consistent supporter she’d had in her life.
Living in Detroit and sleeping in her car, she was introduced to a homeless shelter for veterans, but was denied at the door. Men only. Taz, though, was stubborn and a survivor. She fought to stay at the shelter for four months. Because of her connections within the veteran community, Taz was familiar with the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program at Southwest Solutions. With the assistance of SSVF case managers, Taz was able to overcome her homelessness and addiction, receive mental health services, and gain employment.
Today, Taz works for the United Way’s 211 program, helping other veterans with a particular focus on helping women get access to homes. Over the past two years, she has helped 120 veterans get housing, and she’s not finished yet. Taz is a proud mother, grandmother and is continuing her career by going back to school and getting the education she has always wanted. The power of home and the peace of mind that comes from having a solid community around her drives Taz to make the country better for those who have proudly served it.
Taz is now among a community’s efforts to help other veterans leave homelessness behind. Detroit is one of the communities in Built for Zero working to drive veteran homelessness all the way to zero. The local team has worked to know every veteran experiencing homelessness by name, and to ensure they receive the support they need, when they need it.
Thanks to Taz and her determination to make this vision a reality, we have a story about survival and a future full of family, home and hope.
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