Don’t Quit Your Day Job? No Problem.

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Deshawn, 36, ran away from her heroin-addicted mother and abusive stepfather at 11, and ended up on the streets of Hunts Point. She and her cousin, at the time 13, slept wherever they could, and then moved in to a crack house run by two older women. These ladies “told everyone they were cousins, but they were lesbians. All I know was they were sweet and sheltered us.” Barbara calls Deshawan her baby daughter, saying “these two tiny girls just showed up in Hunts Point with nothing, and we other women tried to look after them, but we were all struggling. Deshawan was two years younger (than her cousin) but she was on top. She’s always been that smart.”

Deshawn started using crack at 16, and has been doing it since. After being raped five times, she bought a gun. “I never had to use it, thank God.” When I asked why she fled home at 11, she paused for the first time, looked at me, and said “it’s really hard for me to go there,” before breaking down in tears. She finally said, “I am usually a very strong, honest, and outgoing lady, but I just can’t go there.”

When I asked her what her dream was, she said “to get out of this place—to be happy and in peace—but it’s all I know. I believe God got better plans for me. I really do.”

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