Taking Back Our Neighborhood: Shelter success story

By Ursula Madden - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A single mother who lived in a Memphis homeless shelter with her three children last year shared her success story.

Last year, Katyana James and her three children, then aged 11, 14 and 17, were living in a Memphis homeless shelter.  Even then, James refused to take the negative view of her situation.

"I don't call it a shelter," James said, "because that's a negative word for me.  I call it the honeycomb hideout."

James positive attitude could not shield her children.  They were teased at school for being poor.  Possibly worse than being teased, her children kept changing schools.

James' youngest child switched schools four times in one year.

"Their education is all they've got right now," James said.

One year later, James family is back on track.

"I wasn't going to accept no for an answer," James said.  "I just wasn't, not for my kids."

Her three children now attend a local charter school and are doing well in all their classes.

James and her youngest daughter Terrika enjoyed looking over her latest report card.

Terrika James, 12, is also getting along better with her mother.

"I'm not so angry with her anymore," Terrika James said.  "I changed."

Katyana James said determination and faith helped turn her family around after being dangerously close to becoming a living statistic of hardship and poverty.

"I wanted a better life for me and my kids," Katyana James said.  "Things I didn't have, I wanted my kids to have, and I'm still working.  It's not easy at all, but you've got to set your mind to it and have faith and patience."

Katyana James now works at a local nursing home.  Her employers know about her past, including her time in jail for writing a bad check.

She is now writing a book about her life behind bars from her family's new apartment, a far cry from the two small rooms the family once shared in a homeless shelter.

"To me, giving up is like the end of the world," Katyana James said.  "You can't give up."

Katyana James said she plans to publish her book in June.

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