LaShonda Crawford, a mother of three and grandmother of one considers herself a people person. “I love helping people and bringing light and joy to them,” she said. LaShonda is a certified nursing assistant who has worked in skilled nursing facilities for a total of 22 years with the last five being at Autumn Meadows in Cahokia where she currently serves as transportation coordinator.

Crawford is proud to be the first person to benefit from ANCHORS, Catholic Urban Programs’ new trauma-informed housing security program. ANCHORS was created to address the safety and well-being of people residing in East St. Louis Public Housing developments. Individuals who meet income, employment, and other requirements are eligible to participate. The program focuses on people who are paying market-rate rent in public housing but lack the resources to cover moving expenses such as first month’s rent and security deposit.

LaShonda, her mother, and grandmother all raised their families in East St. Louis Public Housing. Crawford knew living in public housing was supposed to be short-term but describes getting out as difficult. “It was a cushion,” said LaShonda. “If I were to lose my job, I knew I had a safety net because my rent would go down. The reality is I was comfortable, but I was tired. It was time to get out. Time to move forward.”

There was no peace in public housing for LaShonda and her children. She describes hearing gun shots at night and during the day. It was difficult to sleep with the constant sounds of police and ambulance sirens. Crawford also found herself staying awake at night to watch her surroundings and to keep her children safe after her unit was broken into for the third time. “It is not the people that live there, it is the visitors,” said LaShonda.

“I was my own worst enemy. I kept myself from moving forward. I knew I had the potential; I just needed a boost,” said LaShonda. ANCHORS was that boost. Crawford heard about the program from her sister who is also enrolled. Upon acceptance into the program, ANCHORS clients are required to complete workshops in landlord-tenant rights, financial fitness, energy bill management, and good neighbor. Clients are assisted by a professional navigator who helps them create stability plans in areas such as housing, education, life skills, mental health and more.

LaShonda completed the initial steps of the program and found suitable housing in five months. CUP provided a grant to cover moving expenses. Once the client moves into housing their navigator remains with them as a resource for up to 12-months to help ensure success. “I love Ms. (Carmelia) Williams, I talk her ear off,” said LaShonda. “She calls to check on me and sends me emails. She is great.”

LaShonda is grateful for her blessings especially the peacefulness she feels in her new home.

Crawford’s three children grew up participating in Catholic Urban Programs’ Griffin Center after school and summer programming. The staff at Griffin are very happy for LaShonda and her children.