“I love what I do,” says Turquandra, affectionately known as “Ms. T.” As the supervisor of our Statesville campus, she oversees both the Howard Levine Men’s Shelter, with 164 reserved beds, and the Lucille Giles Emergency Shelter, with 116 unreserved beds. Whether it’s providing basic services like meals, showers and laundry or helping guests find housing and employment, she and her colleagues at the shelters juggle a lot even on ordinary days. But in recent months, the team faced two additional challenges: the closure of the Giles building for renovations, and the influx of additional guests during the arctic chill over the holidays.
“It takes a team effort to do what we do,” she says, acknowledging it’s been a lot to manage. She’s a mother to four children and a grandmother to five grandchildren. “It’s a journey trying to balance it all – work, home and more work!”
But she’s fueled by the memory of finding herself homeless as a young mother nearly twenty years ago. Pregnant with her fourth child, she struggled to balance the responsibilities of employment and motherhood with her yearning to have fun, and she ended up in an abusive relationship. After she lost her home, she found help through Charlotte Emergency Housing, now known as Charlotte Family Housing. “Somebody believed in me,” she says. “They fought for me.” And that motivates her to fight for others.
For nearly a decade, she worked for the organization that helped her rebuild her life. In late 2017, she joined what was then the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. Over time, she was promoted into leadership roles and moved between the North Tryon and Statesville campuses, but in recent years she’s been a fixture at the Statesville sites.
She’s proud to be part of Roof Above and says our mission of ending homelessness is more than just an aspiration. For her, it’s a daily reality. “We are literally ending homelessness one person at a time in this organization. We’re doing things nobody thought was possible,” she says, pointing to this fall’s opening of SECU The Rise on Clanton. She’s realistic and acknowledges the obstacles. “Sometimes people have setbacks and they come back to the shelter. But we power through, and we give them support.” She tries to blend laughter and jokes with a sense of structure. Some of the men, she smiles, like to call her “Mom.”
“A lot of people measure success with money,” she acknowledges. But she considers herself to be a wealthy woman in the currency that really matters. “My biggest reward is helping people succeed. I love seeing them come out of the darkness and into the light.”