Some of Natasha Mables’ clients while at the Salvation Army in Champaign were homeless. Others suffered domestic violence. Mables empathized with all of her clients, but particularly with the latter two types, because she has been in their shoes.
Mables, who is from Chicago, was in the MSW program at DePaul University, but enrolled in the MSW program at the University of Illinois when the father of her daughter became increasingly emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive. She moved in with a family member in Champaign, but soon had to leave because the lease did not allow her to be there. For the next few weeks, Mables and her newborn daughter—just a few weeks old—lived in hotels. Then her money ran out.
She was a single mom with an infant and without a home. “We eventually got a place in transitional housing and stayed there for about six months until I got a job,” Mables says. “But it really humbled me. I get the fears associated with having nowhere to go with your children. I had experienced that and never want to experience it again.”
Mables received the Esther and Marvin Steinberg Memorial Award in 2019. The award is geared for students who have experienced homelessness or working with the homeless. In Mables’ case, she has experienced both.
“I was very honored to have received the award,” she says. In her application for the award, she wrote how her homeless experience has shaped her professionally and promoted her personal and spiritual growth as well. All three of those areas have been enhanced through her work at the Salvation Army, where she served as a program manager and case worker before transitioning to The Center for Youth and Family Solutions, where she now serves as a child welfare supervisor.
Her experiences with homelessness impact how she interacts with her clients, she notes. “It’s what drove me to want to go back to school and get my MSW,” she says. “I really want to be that beacon of hope for others who are having a similar experience.”