Rescued for a Reason
When LaTanya Carter ran away from her Hillside, N.J., home at age 13, she had no idea how rocky the road ahead would be.
As a juvenile runaway, she was in and out of youth houses 11 times. At 16, she embarked on a 16–year run as an exotic dancer in New Jersey.
“You know what comes along with that; drinking and drugs,” LaTanya says. “I did anything I could get my hands on—cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and alcohol. I was into a little bit of everything, prostitution, selling drugs, whatever I could do.
“I stopped at one point. I got my own apartment and tried to get myself together, but it never worked.”
As an adult, LaTanya went to jail 10 times for various charges. Along the way, she overdosed on heroin three times. During her final incarceration, she lost custody of her now 8–year–old daughter. That’s when she vowed to get clean upon her release.
“I wanted to be back in my daughter’s life and get myself together. I was staying in abandoned houses and just going from place to place. I got tired. I decided to go and give myself some hope.”
The turning point
LaTanya went to detox for two weeks and was referred to the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia in November 2018. While there, she drew close to God and eventually graduated in July 2019.
“I always believed in God, but knew I needed to get closer to Him and pay more attention to Him,” she says. “Now that I’m closer to God, I’m not going to say I’m perfect, but I know everything is going to be OK.
“The ARC program is really hard, but I was determined to complete it. I knew the foundation was a stepping–stone for me. I knew that once I graduated the program, I could get a job there. It had everything I needed.”
LaTanya lived for a while in the ARC’s alumni housing but was anxious to see if she could get her own apartment. She now works at the ARC, where she was recently promoted to assistant supervisor, and lives alone in North Philly. Her life revolves around working, going home, and avoiding past habits.
“I know I don’t want to indulge in that life anymore because it’s right down the street from me. I don’t go down there,” she says. “I don’t want no part of it.”
Looking back, LaTanya, now 42, said her past life was “definitely about money.”
“I think about where I used to be compared to where I am now,” she said. “God has kept me here for a reason. I’m not sure yet what it is, but it feels like it’s the beginning. There’s more stuff I have to do.”
Focused on the future
One of those things is to regain custody of her daughter, who now lives with LaTanya’s mother.
“I’m just going to keep on going. I know it’s all going to work itself out because I’m not doing anything wrong,” she said. “I’ve got myself together, I’m not getting high, and I’m taking care of my bills. I’m responsible. I’ve got God and I know He’s not going to bring me this far to give up on me. I’m not going to give up on myself.
“I want to get my daughter back and be a mother to her. I think God knew I didn’t really want to be out there on the streets. I just got caught up in the wrong situation.
“I had been doing it for so long, I sometimes started feeling like that’s who I was. I always knew it wasn’t me. Since I turned my life around, I know this is me.”
by Robert Mitchell
What makes the ARC program so successful?
It helps me stay focused. They have a lot of rules there. I noticed when I first got there that I had to follow those rules in order to live a normal life. I was so used to breaking rules and doing what I wanted to do. But if I can’t follow the rules there, how can I expect to survive in life?
The ARC builds structure. They give me time to get settled and then I start meetings. They put me through a really good process to get where I need to be.
The other thing the ARC does is they help me know who God is and what He does and who He is to me. By them doing that, I realized I’m lucky. He forgave me. All those things I did? God forgave me and gave me a chance to start over.