Rashidah Odom’s story with Matrix Human Services goes all the way back to her childhood when her grandmother used to take her to a program called The Grandparents Program at our community center on Detroit’s Eastside called The Matrix Center.
“I just remember the resources and going there and playing with kids. And I knew everytime we went there weekly, we’ll eat and my grandma would get some kind of resources, some kind of help, some kind of way… It was just really awesome. So I knew it was just some place that I could go where I could find the resources that I needed for me and my family.” – Rashidah Odom
Little did Rashidah know then that her relationship with Matrix would ultimately lead to a life-changing opportunity.
By 2020, Rashidah was a single mom of three boys providing for her family on her own. This became especially difficult however when Rashidah was laid-off from her job during the pandemic.
– Rashidah Odom and two of her three sons
“What urged me to even think to contact Matrix again is, last year during the pandemic, I lost my job and it was really tight for everyone. And I was really still trying to get back into the workforce, and I wanted just a re-vamp on my resume, and I wanted to find some educational resources, and I got with Elizabeth. And she was really awesome in offering all types of support as far as a job, and building my resume, and even taking a look at my credit and trying to establish those type of fundamentals. And she’s been there with me throughout everything.”
Elizabeth Hunter is a Financial Empowerment coach and a HUD Certified Housing Counselor with Matrix Human Services and was the first person at Matrix to learn about Rashidah and her family.
“Rashidah Odom came to us originally as a Rent Assistance client. She was looking for assistance for her family after a job loss at the height of the pandemic. We were able to assist her with rent and we were able to build so much more with her in the relationship.” – Elizabeth Hunter
The Matrix Human Services Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program began in June of 2020 and was created with consideration for the many people who were losing their jobs and income at the peak of the pandemic, as well as to prevent homelessness, a key aspect of Matrix’s mission to empower individuals to achieve a higher quality of life.
Rashidah continued to stay in touch with Elizabeth while she was receiving rent assistance, wanting to stay proactive and utilize any resources Matrix had to offer. Her dedication paid off again.
“So then I went back and in 2021, I wanted to be educational, I wanted to learn something new this year, and we found some resources for me to get into this IT program. And within this IT program, they helped me with so many different accredits and they had help with credit repair as well, so that was really cool.” – Rashidah Odom
“We were able to assist her with getting into the Focus Hope IT program that’s been greatly beneficial to her and her family. That program also came with a stipend that allowed her to make a little bit of extra income for her family. Also since working with us, she raised her credit score 45 points which is great. So the benefits of the program, even though you come in for one thing, you’re able to gain so much more from Matrix.” – Elizabeth Hunter
As 2021 continued, Rashidah was working to find a more stable living environment for her family, because even with rent assistance, the place she was staying in was dilapidated and unwelcoming. She knew she needed a change.
It was at this time when Rashidah was presented with an opportunity she could only dream of.
“I received a text message about a home ownership program. Elizabeth said ‘hey if you’re interested, fill out this application, we’ll check your credit, see if you’re OK there and we’ll go from there. Come to find out my credit was OK, at least enough to be in the program, and she said, ‘OK write a letter why you should be awarded this or why you need this’… So I’m pouring my heart out in this letter, letting everyone know exactly who is this for. It’s not just for me, it’s for three other people too, three other human beings. I wanted to describe who they were and what this would mean to them.” – Rashidah Odom
The program that Rashidah was applying for was actually operated by another organization called Say Detroit, via their Working Homes, Working Families Program. In 2019, Matrix Human Services formed a partnership with Say Detroit, giving Matrix the ability to offer clients who are already in need of housing or financial assistance, the opportunity to apply for the life-changing opportunity of being gifted a house. Matrix also makes sure that the family that is chosen will be able to meet the specific qualifications to remain in the house, which requires paying the taxes and utilities for two years, allowing them to receive the deed to the home once completed.
Matrix and Say Detroit successfully placed their first family into a home together at the end of 2019, forever changing the lives of the Taylor family, who are now well on their way to receiving the deed to their home.
Little did Rashidah know, she was next.
– Odom family and Taylor family, now neighbors living a few houses down the street from each other
On July 28th, 2021, Rashidah and her family received the keys to their newly renovated house thanks to Say Detroit. To make the partnership even more incredible, the home also came fully furnished including personalized details like framed family photos, thanks to Humble Design.
“I remember when I was told that I was actually awarded the home and someone from Humble Design was gonna contact me, I remember my skin was hot. Like first it got instantly hot and I said ‘Cynthia let me see that piece of paper.’ I had to fan myself, I couldn’t believe it… I mean I own my own home now. No one can put me out. It feels amazing. There’s no other words I can articulate to describe how it feels. And then, the way my kids look at me… I can just tell they are so much more confident and that’s what it’s really all about. It’s not just me. If it was just me, I could probably still be at auntie’s house or something, but I actually have somewhere for my children to be that’s theirs, that they can call their own. It feels pretty dang good.” – Rashidah Odom
“Watching the process of her receiving the keys to this home, it was very amazing, the feeling is really indescribable. It really brings tears to ones eyes to be able to help someone in this capacity. Ya know, it’s not every day that someone actually offers up a home to a family that really really needs it, and just being able to help be that middle man to actually help a bring a family into a home, and when I say a home, this home was fully furnished. Rashidah didn’t need anything but her clothing for herself and her boys. This home has everything that she needs, so actually being able to provide that opportunity to someone in that capacity was truly, truly a blessing. So the work that we do here at Matrix, I don’t take it for granted.” – Cynthia Elmore-LeJeune, Assistant Director of Adult Programs