Homeless Woman Who Slept in Kroger Parking Lot Gets Hired by Store: Her 'Spirit Is Contagious'
LaShenda Williams was living in her car outside of a Kroger grocery store when she applied to the location in December
LaShenda Williams is making the most of a life-changing opportunity.
Late last year, 46-year-old Williams had fallen on hard times and was living in a car she regularly parked outside of a Kroger in Tennesee. According to USA Today, Williams had experienced abuse and drug addiction, making it difficult for her to find work and a stable home.
"I would lean my seat all the way back so no one would see me because, you know, I knew I wasn't supposed to be there," Williams told NBC News.
But she eventually crossed paths with Kroger hiring manager Jackie Vandal, who gave her a heads up about an upcoming job fair after Williams repeatedly asked if the store was hiring.
"You get a feel if someone's sincere or if they're just trying to get a job to say they got one and then quit a month later," Vandal told USA Today. "She was very sincere."
"It was just a sense, a gut feeling," she added to NBC. "You can just tell when people are really genuine and when people, you know, are trying."
On the day of the job fair, Vandal suggested Williams submit her application online. Williams retrieved an old laptop from her car and spent hours filling out her application with Vandal's help — and as soon as she submitted it, Vandal hired her on the spot.
“We are so lucky to have Lashenda as part of our Kroger family,” Melissa Eads, corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Nashville division, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “Her uplifting spirit is contagious. She has made such a positive impact on her fellow team members, and so many customers as well. We are so proud to have her as an associate," she added.
In a recent report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 567,715 Americans experienced homelessness on a single night in Jan. 2019. More than 200,000 of them were sleeping outside or in locations "not meant for human habitation."
According to the organization, one of the primary solutions to homelessness is "rapid re-housing," which works by recruiting landlords to shelter a person or family as soon as possible after becoming homeless. Doing so will help stabilize the person experiencing homelessness by connecting them with services and support while keeping them sheltered until they are no longer facing the threat of being unhoused.
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Williams has now been at the store for all of 2020 and is making the most of her opportunity. According to NBC, she saved up enough money to get her own apartment that her coworkers helped to furnish.
"I was sleeping in a parking lot and looking for something to eat," Williams, who helps customers at the self-checkout lines at Kroger, told USA Today.
"Now, all my babies here love on me," she continued. "No one abuses me, and no one calls me dumb and stupid. For the first time in my life, I finally got peace."