7 years after her last day of service, Navy Veteran Yasmine Charles found herself among the homeless population. In an incredibly inspiring story, Charles shares her journey with us as we honor her with our December 2021 NFM Salute.

Full Transcript is Below:

– [Greg Sher] Veterans make up 6% of the adult population in the United States, but represent 8% of the country’s homeless. Our December 2021 NFM Salute, Navy Veteran Yasmine Charles knows that statistic all too well. She lived it out of the trunk of her car for several months in 2015. Down and almost out, the Haitian-born Charles battled her way back from the streets to where she is today, an accomplished professional, soon to be author, and a former adjunct teacher at Stratford University. Yasmine, thank you for agreeing to be our December NFM Salute and thank you for your service.

– [Yasmine Charles] Thank you for having me today.

– [Greg] We’re so happy you’re here. You spent eight years in the Navy from 2000 to 2008, including three stationed in Japan as a culinary specialist and cook. To understand how you ended up homeless is to understand your childhood. How were the two connected?

– [Yasmine] I came to the U.S. at the age of 12. My parents were never married. They had three children. And my father and his wife thought it was a great idea to bring my older sister and I to the U.S. to be the help in the house. And at the age of 12, I had one foot in girlhood and the other foot in womanhood with no one to guide me forward. And so it was very traumatic for me leaving my country, my mother. And I moved in a house with really there was no affection, no love, and to be the help in the house. And it did something to my self esteem and in my self-worth. And eventually at the age of 21, I felt the only way out of that, the only way for me to separate myself from that feeling of worthlessness was to join one of the most respected organizations in the world, the military, and, and that’s what I did. And the Navy changed my life.

– [Greg] So you came back in 2008, you found yourself homeless seven years later. What happened?

– [Yasmine] Knowing that my own parents did not want me, I felt like I didn’t have, I didn’t feel, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Eventually I ran out of my GI bill. I was repeating classes over and over and over again. And the VA really was not stepping up for me the way that they promised me. And I got to a point where I just kind of surrendered. I gave in and, and I packed my apartment up. I slept in my car for about three months. That’s what I did.

– [Greg] What do you remember about that experience? What time of year was it?

– [Yasmine] This was September 2015 until late November 2015. So it was, it was early in the fall. It was getting, starting to get cold. The experience was numbing. It was humiliating. It was very humbling. And I remember telling God that whatever lesson he wanted me to get out of this, I’m willing to learn it. And I discovered how resilient I really was. I didn’t want that experience to define me. I wanted to get those lessons from it and move on with my life and as terrible as it was Greg, if I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything because it’s made me a better person today. And I thank God for that.

– [Greg] You told me earlier in getting to know you, that you decided to turn your trauma into your superpower.

– [Yasmine] Yes.

– [Greg] That its more powerful than staying a victim. Very profound. How did you, how did you come to that place?

– [Yasmine] It took time. I didn’t even know how to process what I was feeling. And so I’ve got to that point through therapy, by reading a lot of books and by praying of course, but therapy is definitely what really helped me to unpack my trauma. And it allowed me to be where I am today, because oftentimes I think when we experience trauma in our lives, as adults, we never really grow that little boy or that little girl inside of us who went through those experiences. So mental wellness is huge for me. And I thank God that I saw myself worthy enough to invest time in me to get better.

– [Greg] So you’re working on a book as we just discussed, entitled “The Cost of The American Dream: Diary of a Homeless Soul.” What can we expect out of that book?

– [Yasmine] It’s very open and I’m very honest about my childhood growing up in Haiti and what I had to go through to be who I am today. It also involves my military travels. Every chapter takes you to a different country or different city around the world, like at least 12 different countries or cities. So we’re in Japan, we’re in Australia, we go to Haiti, Nigeria. It’s a really, really wonderful read. It’s a book about freedom and really understanding what happens to you when you go through trauma and how to overcome it. Because a lot of people, I believe they stay victims because they just don’t know how to express those emotions. And so it’s a really great read. I’m really proud of it.

– [Greg] In addition to this wonderful book that will be coming out soon, you also are a bit of an Internet sensation. You have a YouTube channel where you teach others how to cook because that’s a big passion of yours. As I mentioned in the Navy, you were a culinary chef. And then you have recently expanded to TikTok. Tell us about that endeavor.

– [Yasmine] Absolutely. So I was actually teaching at a culinary school. I really wanted to take what I was teaching in front of the camera. And so I decided to start a YouTube channel. And so I pretty much teach exactly what I was teaching in the classroom, culinary education. I also talk about nutrition and a little bit of food history.

– [Greg] You also campaign with former Virginia, governor Terry McAuliffe as a homeless advocate, and you’ve made it your life’s calling to help other homeless individuals. 4,400 women Vets in the streets of America on any given night. That’s four times more likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts. Why is that? Why does this hit women so profoundly?

– [Yasmine] Well from a personal level, I think there’s a shame attached to it. I can only speak from my experience. Of course I had friends, but I just didn’t want people to know my business, you know. I left the Navy. I was very financially comfortable. My car was paid off. I had money in the bank so I did my part. And so when you find yourself in a situation like this, and you know, and especially when you are a Veteran, people don’t expect you to go through that experience. But, it’s honestly, it’s the shame that keeps a lot of women from reaching out and seeking the help because homelessness is, honestly, is often associated with men, not women.

– [Greg] Yasmine you have decided to earmark the $2,500 that we are going to donate to a charity called Vetshouse. This is a charity that played a tremendous role in you getting back on your feet. Tell us about Vetshouse and what they meant to you.

– [Yasmine] Yeah, the Vetshouse was a lifeline for me. When I was desperate, just trying to find a place to stay. And it was really just a place for me to kind of catch my breath and rest and come up with a plan as far as what I was going to do. And so they have a house for men and women, and I stayed there for three months. And during that time frame, I was able to get myself two jobs, bought me a new car, and it’s a wonderful place to be.

– [Greg] Navy veteran, Yasmine Charles, you are a true inspiration, and we are honored that you allowed us to feature you as our December 2021 NFM Salute. Continued success. We look forward to following your path.

– [Yasmine] Greg, thank you so much. I appreciate you. I appreciate you.

– I’m Greg Sher. This was your December 2021 NFM salute. We’ll see you again next time.