The day before Thanksgiving in 2015, Child Protective Services (CPS) took custody of Khalidah Byrd’s three children. She and the kids did not have stable housing. They and Khalidah’s partner Ricardo had been squatting in a vacant house on Detroit’s east side, using an illegal electric hookup for power and heat, until the authorities found out.
Before moving into the vacant house, the family had been living with Khalidah’s mother, until her mother forced them to leave because of Khalidah’s complaints about her mother’s persistent behavior that was detrimental to the children.
Khalidah was angered and devastated by the loss of her kids. She believed she was doing everything she could to care for them, given the poverty and adversity she was dealing with. With her children gone, she and Ricardo lived in her car, staying with relatives whenever possible. Khalidah felt her life was in chaos, but was determined to pull it together and find a way to get her children back.
“I love my babies with all my heart,” Khalidah, 28, said. “I knew that I had to keep the faith and keep fighting for them, even when the odds were against me. I knew I had to prove myself to people so they would see that my children belong with me.”
Khalidah also knew that she would have to secure stable housing to be reunited with her kids. Working with the Housing Resource Center at Southwest Solutions, she acquired housing under the Rapid Re-Housing program. She then received a voucher for permanent supportive housing and was assigned a caseworker, Natalie Savoy. Natalie’s role was to support Khalidah in her recovery from homelessness and connect her with services and resources to maintain her housing and rebuild her family and future.
“Khalidah is very resourceful herself,” Natalie said. “She has been through a lot and she is focused on moving forward and taking responsibility to help herself and her children.”
Khalidah herself located a rental home in Highland Park that is in good shape and could accommodate the family. She also continued to work with CPS to meet all the criteria to regain custody. Last June, she got her three kids back for good.
The three children are two girls and a boy, and they range in age from 8 to 11. All are doing well in school. Khalidah proudly displays their certificates of achievement on the walls of their home.
Khalidah herself dropped out of high school. She now hopes to get her GED and one day build a career so she can better provide for her children and serve as a role model for them. The family currently receives food stamps, and Khalidah cuts hair and babysits for friends and relatives to help ends meet. She and Ricardo also do seasonal maintenance work at Ford Field.
“My dream is to own and operate a place where kids of all ages can go and have fun,” Khalidah said. “Life is hard for so many kids in Detroit, and there are too few places where they can go and just be kids.”