I Am Project HOME: LaRhonda Asiyah Muslim
This story originally appeared in our Summer 2019 Edition of News from HOME.
LaRhonda has always been a caregiver, even before she arrived at Project HOME’s Sacred Heart Recovery Residence. “I was doing catering and I was always counseling,” she says, offering people keys to her home, telling them to “rest up” or “take a shower.” This didn’t just happen at work though. LaRhonda could be at a store talking to the sales staff about their day, next thing, she’s handing over her cellphone number and asking them to call her with updates on how they’re doing. That concern never failed to drive her two kids crazy, but LaRhonda just saw it as conditioning from her mother who was always trying to help others fix their problems.
Being the middle child of six siblings though, LaRhonda was constantly trying to figure out her place in the world or questioning whether what she was doing was enough. On her way to figuring those big questions out, LaRhonda travelled many different paths. These paths were rocky, as they involved experiencing homelessness, substance use and domestic abuse. But the person that emerged on the other side, combined with an innate nurturing spirit, is ultimately what led LaRhonda away from catering to begin her work in recovery. Her journey also gave her an understanding of what it means to truly hurt. “You can tell when people are broken, I can feel it.”
As soon as LaRhonda started at Project HOME in 2016, she threw herself into the work. “I couldn’t wait to get to work, I couldn’t wait to help.” Not only does she invest her time but also her emotions and her whole self, so she’s had to remember that self-care is important. For LaRhonda, prayer, being in service through her recovery, cooking, and watching cartoons are her therapy.
While she started as a residential recovery specialist at Ray Homes, she now works as an assistant program manager at Sacred Heart Recovery Residence (SHRR). SHRR offers about 15 - 20 emergency beds and 48 entry-level long-term housing units for people who have experienced homelessness and are committed to recovery. It also happens to be just on the outskirts of Kensington, where the opioid epidemic has taken hold of the community (see “Saving Yourself Starts with Welcoming MAT”).
Working at SHRR, LaRhonda has had to tell residents it’s okay to shower or sleep in a warm bed, and that they're safe. It’s not that straightforward, however, as she says she’s watched people come and go, “knowing that the addiction is bigger than them.”
What keeps LaRhonda going on difficult days is not just her nurturing spirit, but her love of the larger Project HOME community, a group she now sees as her “family”. She has watched her Project HOME “family’s” support and love manifest itself in so many ways over the years. From her manager Sue Smith encouraging her to not try to do everything and just focus on where she thrives, to Project HOME co-founder Joan McConnon talking with her husband for hours at a gathering.
And Project HOME has benefitted from having LaRhonda as part of our community. “She is committed to help others define and work towards achieving their optimal level of recovery,” says Qasim Moore, LaRhonda’s manager at SHRR. “She desires to assist others to turn their stumbling blocks into pathways to achievement.”
“I’m so in love with Project HOME and my plan is to retire here,” La Rhonda says. “And it’s an honor to be part of Sister Mary’s and Joan’s legacy.” With her incredible compassion and commitment, LaRhonda is a vital part of that legacy already.