RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Imagine growing up and going to school, spending time with your family, all while living without a home.
That is a reality for children across our area.
8News spoke with one teen who says her time in shelters shaped who she is today.
Taliah Connor said the kids who she spends time volunteering with at Hilliard House will remember these moments forever because that was her experience growing up at the shelter.
“I’ve always had a connection with some of the people I met here,” Connor said.
8News was there when Connor visited Hilliard House, the place where she once lived with her mother, for the first time in ten years.
“This is my old room,” she said showing where she used to sleep. “This used to be my bed, and that was my mom’s bed.”
Connor moved from one Richmond-area shelter to another between the ages of six and nine.
At first, she remembers feeling judged by society’s negative impression of what being homeless means, but others walking along similar paths changed her mind.
“I just remember feeling like a family walking around here,” Connor said.
This Old Dominion University Student is now using her summer break to volunteer at her former home, and changing how the public perceives homelessness.
“Not everybody that is homeless is someone like you see panhandling on the street,” Connor said. “Most of the time, when people move into a homeless shelter, they’re trying to do better.”
“I definitely learned a lot from the other people that were here and their situations which I felt like built me to be the person I am today,” Connor said. “Because I didn’t necessarily go through all the things they did, but I felt their emotions when they used to tell me their stories.”
At age 19, Connor already knows she will open her own shelter for families who need help like hers did.
Connor knows housing can be a bridge to better opportunities. It was for her and she says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I love it,” Connor said. “It excites me because it makes me different and I like that I grew from it and I want to give that back.”