Alumna Spotlight: Taniya Johnson

Many women become homeless due to a traumatic life event, a sort of event that many of us could relate to and all of us would find challenging: illness or death of a loved one, loss of a job, a failed relationship or domestic or sexual abuse. The strength it takes to surmount such life curve balls is immense. But NEW alumna, Taniya Johnson was able to find such strength.

“I feel victorious!” she said recently. “I overcame some very hard obstacles.” It was the death of Taniya’s mother and then the dissolution of her marriage shortly there after that left Taniya reeling. “I resorted to drinking,” Taniya said. “And it got really, really bad.” She became homeless. She finally entered an addiction program but she had to convince herself to stay. After 45 days though, she became interested in helping others in their recovery. The only problem was, she still had nowhere to go.

She found herself living on the streets again. Only now she was clean and had to steel herself against the temptations out there that would reverse her recent successes. Finally, she found a solution: New Endeavors by Women. “NEW made me feel so comfortable and welcome. It was more like family,” Taniya said. “The case workers were very resourceful and they really do care. And they make it happen for you. When they see that you have that drive and that go, they’ll help you.” Taniya enrolled in cosmetology school. She relapsed once but with the support of NEW and her case workers, she returned from rehab and then immediately got back on track, even graduating on time.

Today Taniya runs a salon, called “Miracles” in a women’s prison in DC. “Miracles is the name of the salon since God has worked a miracle on me, then I must give back,” she said. She has rules in her salon: no cursing and no disrespect. The women have come to appreciate Taniya’s work and support for them and she says that her work is “rewarding and humbling. I’m on assignment for God,” she said.

This year, on the anniversary of her mother’s death, she didn’t relapse. Instead, she surrounded herself with her network of good friends. “My network is stronger and I have become more transparent. And even sharing my story has helped me. I tell my inmates I’m no different from you. God put something in my heart.”

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It’s been a challenging time for all of us as we adjust our days, our budgets and our expectations to COVID-19. And now, add a city and country grasping for footing after the death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer and we all feel even more out of control, unstable, and concerned about the future. Here at NEW we know that one way we can process our own feelings is to think about the needs and feelings of others.

We need you. The women need you. Your community needs you. Now more than ever women and children in DC need a safe and stable place to live.