It’s a short walk to her apartment from Maybury Elementary where her two boys now attend school. But Bahati Lee’s mind races with every unhurried step, as she recalls how far she’s come to arrive at this doorway to a better future.
“We’d been homeless, on and off, for five years before we got this apartment,” said Bahati, who is 25. “We went from place to place, staying in shelters, sleeping in the streets sometimes, and even living in an abandoned house for a while. I was dealing with a domestic violence situation, and it made our lives unstable.”
Bahati moved into a unit in the Clark Apartments in late September. The building is one of 20 apartment buildings that Southwest Solutions has renovated in southwest Detroit to provide affordable housing.
Bahati learned about Southwest Solutions’ affordable housing program through the Empowerment Plan, where she works as a seamstress. Empowerment Plan managers Matuaka Brown and Kelsey Grigal worked with Terri Lopez, who’s part of Southwest Solutions’ property management team, to help Bahati fill out the apartment application, verify income and employment, and resolve some personal debt so she could qualify for the apartment.
Bahati connected with the Empowerment Plan when she and her kids were staying at the COTS homeless shelter this year. The Empowerment Plan trains and employs homeless parents to manufacture special coats that transform into sleeping bags. Bahati has been working full-time at the Empowerment Plan since February.
“I had no sewing experience before, but now I can make every part of the coat,” Bahati said. “With a steady job, I started looking for a decent, affordable apartment so we could leave the shelter. But it was very hard to find a place and I was afraid that I’d exhausted all my options until the opportunity with Southwest Solutions came along.”
When Bahati moved into her unit, she had very few things and she felt it would take time for her to make the apartment into a complete home. However, the Empowerment Plan contacted Humble Design, which furnishes homes for families and veterans transitioning from homelessness. Humble Design then provided furniture, decorations, household goods, toys, books, and other items to transform Bahati’s apartment and express her style.
“The apartment truly feels like home and our own,” Bahati said. “We feel so blessed being here. Our neighbors in the building are friendly and we look out for each other.”
Now that she has stable housing and income, Bahati wants to further her education and build a career. She plans to start college next year.
“I want to study anesthesiology, but I’m also interested in culinary arts, theology and philosophy,” Bahati said. “I love to read and am passionate about learning. It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities ahead!”
Bahati is one of two Empowerment Plan employees that Southwest Solutions has housed recently. It’s a promising partnership to address the multiple needs of individuals recovering from homelessness and rebuilding their lives.