Resident Highlight:
Natalie Lino
Natalie Lino

Meet Natalie Lino

Turning her life around has been the best thing for Natalie Lino, and it has benefitted many former residents of Tidewater Gardens, as well.

‘Blessed and Highly Favored’
Years ago, when Natalie Lino’s life was spiraling out of control, the odds of her stopping the downward trajectory were as low as her winning the lottery.

Using drugs and harboring an illegal boarder resulted in Ms. Lino being evicted from Tidewater Gardens, where she had lived for nine years. The drug addiction led to homelessness. Her husband was sent to prison. She had nowhere to go, except to a shelter. Ms. Lino hit rock bottom, but she eventually cleaned up her act and moved back to Tidewater Gardens in 2013 with two of her five children.
Living in the four-bedroom unit brought a sense of stability to Ms. Lino and her family. “This time I was substance-abuse-free,” she said proudly.

In 2021, during the Tidewater Gardens community redevelopment, the People First Empowered by Urban Strategies team helped Ms. Lino (in photo, center) and her children move into a three-bedroom townhouse in a

neighborhood of her choosing. The unit is subsidized with a housing choice voucher (HCV) from the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA).

Ms. Lino was a familiar face at People FirstUSI offices, where she visited regularly to get information, educational and economic support services, and other resources. Brittany Sutton, a workforce specialist at People FirstUSI, told Ms. Lino about a job opening at Urban Strategies that involved working with other Tidewater Gardens families on relocation and family-support initiatives.

Ms. Lino applied for the position and was hired in February 2023. She is now officially an outreach specialist at People FirstUSI. Her job is to make sure former residents know about current events and construction updates for the new community, which has been renamed Kindred.

“God is really blessing me,” said Ms. Lino, who gets emotional when reminiscing about how far she’s come.

The blessings didn’t stop there.

Thomasine Norfleet, Ms. Lino’s supervisor and associate project manager, asked Ms. Lino if she would be interested in serving on the board of directors for the Hampton Roads Community Health Center, which has partnered with USI to provide health, wellness, and mental health services to Tidewater Gardens families impacted by the redevelopment.

Ms. Lino was skeptical, but she applied anyway and went to the next board meeting when new members would be elected. “With me coming from the person I used to be, when I went in there, I made sure I looked my best,” Ms. Lino said. “There was so much power in that room. Everyone had initials from A to Z behind their names. They were either a lawyer or a doctor and then there was me. Just a blessed and highly favored woman by the man upstairs.”

Her nomination to the board was readily approved.

“My life, oh my Lord, my life has changed,” said Ms. Lino, who is preparing for yet another lifestyle change: moving to Origin Circle at Kindred with her youngest child, who is 12.

“I will definitely move back to the new community,” she said. “I was the first one who put in an application at Origin Circle.”