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The Hopeless Romantic: LaPorsche’s Story of Finding Permanent Housing

Published: 10/3/2023

There is something to be said about the hopeless romantic—someone who, despite all the hurt they have been through, still somehow sees the beauty in the chaos. They hone in on that fleeting feeling and turn it into sentimental memory. LaPorsche Steele is that lighthouse amidst treacherous waters. And she feels. She really feels. 

LaPorsche, 40, does not just wear her emotions on her sleeves-- emotions are her sleeves. When she is happy, her smile can be seen from space. When she is sad, her cry will dampen the clamor. That is the beauty of LaPorsche. To some, she is temperamental. To those who truly know her, she is effusive, loving, unapologetically herself and severely misunderstood. 

Up until March of this year, LaPorsche was experiencing homelessness for over 30 years. During this time, she built up sturdy walls as a means of protecting herself. These walls helped her survive the foster care and correctional systems, physical and mental health decline, survival sex work, and more losses than one can count. These walls also made it hard to reach her. 

But after incredible work and patience, LaPorsche recently has been letting those walls down. Just a few months ago, she moved into permanent housing for the first time since she was only nine years old. LaPorsche’s story to attain permanent housing started on February 14, 2021 when she accepted services for the first time while living near MacArthur Park. 

“Valentine’s Day! I accepted services on Valentine’s Day,” LaPorsche said, once again seeing the romantic side of her decision. 

LaPorsche has shown incredible dedication in her journey, but she believes the City of Long Beach’s Homeless Services Bureau (HSB) outreach staff and their partners are the reason she is here today. 

“They always gave me the benefit of the doubt,” LaPorsche said. “And sometimes that’s all we need.” 

Long Beach outreach workers Allison Kripp and Nancy Toun worked with LaPorsche for two years, first connecting her to a Project Roomkey crisis bed at the Colonial Motel so they could begin focusing on her declining physical and mental health. LaPorsche would have frequent seizures and mood and behavioral shifts. 

“Everyone quickly fell in love with LaPorsche. She lit up a room with her personality,” Allison said. “We needed to get her connected to health insurance, but she had a record. So we went to work on helping her with her legal troubles. Working with LaPorsche taught me that sometimes you have to be less traditional when supporting the housing path.” 

To assist LaPorsche, Allison and Nancy worked closely with her probation officer and transported her to and from probation meetings in El Monte. These car rides were where LaPorsche started to open up to Allison and Nancy, where their relationships really began to build. 

“On these rides, LaPorsche was so raw and open. Working closely with her during such a vulnerable time allowed me insight into some of the barriers she and our clients may have,” said Nancy. “We were able to see her for who she is and not just what she’s been through.” 

After close, careful work with her parole officer and Allison and Nancy, LaPorsche was able to get connected to services with Healthcare in Action (HIA), who provide medicine and healthcare connections to people experiencing homelessness. They assigned LaPorsche a therapist, who helped begin navigating her through her emotions and behavior. 

When the Project Roomkey program ended in August 2022, LaPorsche was connected to the City’s Atlantic Farms Bridge Housing Community. Later that year, she moved into the former Hyland Inn as part of the Encampment Resolution Funding program from the State of California, which recently awarded the City with additional funding.  

LaPorsche continued to work diligently with HSB and HIA and was eventually matched to permanent housing through the City’s Cabrillo Gateway program. 

While awaiting her new apartment, LaPorsche spent her free time cooking, coloring, writing in her journal, and doing her favorite pastime, riding her bicycle. When LaPorsche cycles, she feels calm, free, and ready to take on the world. It allows her the space to decompress and focus on the task at-hand. 

“When I’m on my bike, I’m free as a bird. Even when I’m sad or crying, I feel at peace when I’m out there,” LaPorsche said. 

LaPorsche saw a destination at the end of her bike rides: a new life in her new apartment, where she could be stable and continue to acknowledge her traumas and work to overcome them. Each of her experiences up to that point were the spokes in her wheels guiding her to that destination. 

And in March 2023, LaPorsche moved into permanent housing at the Century Villages at Cabrillo, shortly before her 40th birthday. 

“She has accomplished so much,” Nancy said, “and she continues to demonstrate growth. I cannot be more proud of her.” 

Since moving into her new place, LaPorsche has been going back out to the streets, talking with friends and strangers experiencing homelessness, and convincing them to get connected to services at the Multi-Service Center. With her lived experience, she feels she can reach people and help them achieve what she has achieved. 

She also takes care of her three cats, Nefertiti, Blueface, and Itty Bitty, as well as her dog, Munchy. As much as LaPorsche loves people, she loves animals even more. One of her goals is to volunteer at an animal shelter to help care for the animals that also have experienced pain and neglect.  

“If I had it my way, I’d have one of every animal in the world as a pet,” LaPorsche said. 

Every week, she also dedicates a little of her money to adding something new to her space. This allows her days to feel fresh and affords her the opportunity to take pride in her home.  

“It feels good to take care of my home, but also it means that I’m taking care of myself,” LaPorsche said. 

Overall, things have been going really well for LaPorsche since she moved into Century Villages. But this month, LaPorsche learned some disappointing news. Her longtime therapist would be moving to a new position and she would be receiving a new therapist. LaPorsche’s emotions got the best of her at first. She was hurt by losing one of the constants in her life. Not only did this therapist help guide her through processing her traumas, but allowed her the space to feel them; to scream, to cry, to smile those colossal smiles of hers. 

Shortly before their final session together, the therapist gifted LaPorsche a clipping of a pothos plant. The gesture meant the world to her, and she wasted no time in potting it and began caring for it as if it were Nefertiti or Blueface. She would take it outside early every morning to let it “get some air” before giving it the best spot in her home for sunlight. The pothos thrived. It grew and grew, vine after vine giving life to healthy leaves. 

LaPorsche still has a long way to go to recovery, but she’s beginning to understand that each gesture in her life is a clipping just awaiting some care. With intention, that clipping will grow. With time, her experiences will give life to new ones. 

LaPorsche can still cry. She can still scream. She can still feel. But now she knows she can take that pain and rise above it. 

While hugging herself one day after a good cry, LaPorsche said, “I want to be the person that when I do die, everyone knows that she did the best she could in life. That she accepted all her challenges and that she loved to help people. I just want to be known as that person.” 

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