Ms. Zenith Harper grew up in the Midwest, but fell in love with the energy and diversity of New York City when she moved here in 2012. "There's never a dull moment," she said, "I'm always learning so much." When neighbors in her Bronx apartment building started receiving eviction notices from their landlord, Ms. Harper, a U.S. Army veteran who spent time homeless during her early days in New York, sought help. Ms. Harper was referred to the Community Empowerment Center and HomeBase program by Services for the Underserved after finding a Marshall's notice on her door. When Ms. Harper first arrived at the Empowerment Center she met and consulted with O'shaya, who then introduced her to Blanca. She was given a letter to present to her landlord, and referred to a lawyer to assist her in housing court. The court granted her a stay, but by the time she returned to her apartment the doors were locked. A 4.0 student at Monroe College studying criminal justice, Ms. Harper again found herself on the streets, trying to find a place to sleep for her and her two dogs.
Ms. Harper received financial assistance from the HomeBase program to stay with a friend while her case was ongoing. With the help of Veteran's HomeBase, Ms. Harper was able to return to her apartment and receive assistance with rental arrears. Ms. Harper and her dogs are now home, and she is two semesters away from completing her Bachelor's Degree. Committed to her education, Ms. Harper is determined to retake the two courses she fell behind in during her housing crisis so she can maintain her 4.0.
Through the HomeBase program, Ms. Harper attended a Tenants' Rights Workshop and also received financial counseling, which helped her learn her credit score, budgeting strategies, and her rights as a tenant. A natural advocate, Ms. Harper found herself handing out flyers and sharing the information she had learned through HomeBase to her friends and neighbors. "Life repeats itself," Ms. Harper said, "I want to pass on knowledge, not keep it hidden." Ms. Harper looks forward to completing her B.A. and has plans to get a Master's Degree in I.T. as well as go to law school. She is already working with a professor at her college on the weekends to prepare for the LSAT. A grandmother of 8, soon to be 9, Ms. Harper wants to fulfill her longtime dream of helping young people at risk. "They're going to be running the country when I can't do anything."She feels grateful to be able to share her story and what she has learned, and hopes to do public speaking, "so I can help someone else who's willing to listen. It's up to us."
Published June 10, 2017