T’Hani Holt-Middleton wants to help people avoid homelessness

T'Hani Holt-Middleton
T’Hani Holt-Middleton

It’s difficult to look at T’Hani Holt-Middleton’s time at CSU without feeling tired. Really, really tired.

The senior from Aurora is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social work in the College of Health and Human Sciences, but it’s a wonder she ever had time to actually attend classes. Consider:

She has worked full-time throughout her four-plus years at CSU. She has been a program coordinator for Cans Around the Oval, CSU’s iconic food drive. She has worked in SLiCE as a coordinator for CSUnity, helping recruit students for a day of community service in Fort Collins. She has made two trips to Ghana in East Africa through Education Abroad, helping citizens deal with rampant poverty. And she has participated in many, many other activities.

On a more personal level, she converted to Islam two years ago and has had to learn how to fit five daily prayer periods into her busy schedule.

“I’ve been really busy for the past four years – and I’m really sad that it’s ending,” she said. “I have loved my time at CSU, but I also realize it’s time for me to go out into the world.”

A different path

Holt-Middleton, a first-generation student, came to CSU to study interior design but a class in ethnic studies convinced her to take a different path.

Perhaps the most meaningful and impactful phase of her academic career has been her final semester, which she has spent as an intern for Neighbor to Neighbor. The Fort Collins nonprofit seeks to prevent homelessness by connecting people with available resources.

“I work with people who are facing homelessness, helping them find housing or get help paying rent,” she said. “It’s shocking to me how quickly people can become homeless. One bad thing – like an injury, illness, or losing a job, even a divorce – happens and you’re in financial crisis. I see it happen to people of all ages and ethnicities. It’s terrifying for them, and I like that I can help them.”

A particularly memorable case involved a man who was about to lose his home due to an acute problem with hoarding. His home had become so overwhelmed with clutter than he could not even sleep in his own bed. Holt-Middleton and some of her co-workers spent three weeks working with the man to clean out his home.

“He wasn’t living because he was trapped by his own stuff,” she said. “He came alive after we helped him clean out his place, and he was able to keep his home. That was really gratifying.”

Holt-Middleton hopes to work with the homeless in California for a year or so after graduation before working on a master’s degree. She’s not exactly sure where she will land, or what she’s going to do, but she’s driven to help others.

“Working with people is really important, but I now know I can make a bigger difference by working in policy,” she said. “That’s what I want to study in grad school.”