MISSOULA – From aggression to homelessness through the severing of family ties, the introduction to Tanisha Lang’s life story is not pretty. The ending, however, is quite remarkable, thanks to the Missoula community.
âI’ve been here since June,â Lang recalled, beginning the story of a 6 month roller coaster. âI came from Washington because I was raped and I just needed a change of scenery. My children were somewhat traumatized by the event and I decided one day that no one would protect them like I can protect them. So I had to start my own trip and we literally left with a backpack of clothes.
Sometimes a change of scenery takes more than a car trip across state lines.
If you ask Lang, she’ll tell you that a real change of scenery takes persistence and the recognition that you can’t always do it alone.
âAll the doors slammed in my face,â Lang said.
A Honda Civic loaded with nothing more than her three children, their backpacks, and whatever little she could cram here and there, Lang’s first stop to rewrite her story was the Domestic Violence Shelter at Missoula’s Meadowlark.
“I was only allowed to stay for two weeks because there is a clause that if you are not from Missoula County or the State you cannot really get help,” Lang said. at MTN News.
Affordable housing? Unavailable. Child care? Possible only if you have a job. A work? Only possible if you have a childcare service.
In December, Lang was hopeless, and his vehicle offered his children the only stability they knew.
âWe are everything the other has,â she told them. “Whatever is in this car, it’s all we have, we have to make it work.”
Somewhere along the mess, Lang heard something that changed everything.
âThere’s a lot of help out there, you just have to ask for it,â Lang said, recalling a conversation she had throughout her trip. “She’s like” closed mouths are not fed. “”
Vowing to exhaust all her resources, she wanted to have a home by Christmas. Otherwise, she would go back to Washington.
Housing vouchers were obtained but expired, hotel vouchers ran out, churches and voluntary organizations got to know Lang and his children by first name. Despite uninterrupted visits to Missoula’s housing assistance programs, Lang continued to miss until one desperate day in mid-December. A visit to the Meadowlark for a final housing interview proved to be crucial.
“They called me the next day at about eight in the morning and said, ‘Hey, we need you to see this unit, sign the lease that’s on the counter and the keys are on the fridge. And I said to myself ‘shut up’.
Lang’s Christmas miracle was not yet over.
She had an apartment, but nothing more, so she set up a Facebook post asking for firsthand and second-hand items.
âI was just like, ‘If someone throws something away or likes to throw things away, I can come and get it or you can drop it off. I have nothing, literally, not even a box to sit on to eat.
Within hours, Lang’s post had over 900 likes and people came in droves with pots and pans, sofas, bedding, Christmas presents and open arms.
âI was thankful that I even got the stuff I had, but when people started bringing in, like, just stuff they went to the store and boughtâ¦ wow. My son even said: “They don’t even know us, like why would they buy us stuff? I told him that’s what people do in communities, like they help each other because we’re all a unit.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt such love from some of my own family, let alone an entire community. â