Tanzania Hughie had a vision. “I was going to come back to New York, get a job and live in a beautiful place,” she said. “That did not happen right away.”

Like many before her, Ms. Hughie, a child of the South Bronx, found out just how hard it can be to go home again. It took more moves than she cares to remember, plenty of support from friends and family, and a little bit of luck to finally make it happen.

She left for Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999, channeling her unsettled creativity into studying fashion. The Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea had been a possibility, but life at home was too tumultuous to stick around. Her immediate family wasn’t around to assist her. She had to get away.

It took a while to adjust to life in Virginia — “culture shock,” Ms. Hughie called it. “When you come from New York City, everyone thinks you know everything,” she said.

Though she was raised in the Bronx, Ms. Hughie said, she became an adult in the Southern state: “I grew up down there and figured out who I was.”

She stayed for several years after school, working with young people at a church and at a Boys & Girls Club. It was meaningful work, but she wasn’t fulfilled. She still felt creative urges in different directions and needed to pursue them. “I kept saying I’m going to kick myself at 50-something if I don’t ever go back to New York and try to sing or dance or do anything,” she said.

So, after 13 years away, Ms. Hughie came home.

An uncle in the Bronx let her stay with him. It worked for a while. Then challenges set in.

They had different ideas about how Ms. Hughie should approach finding a job. “My uncle was hounding me to ‘pound the pavement,’” she recalled. “I was like, ‘No, I need to be on the computer.’ It was a bit of a generation gap when it came to managing that.”

There was also her uncle’s 9 p.m. curfew, which, at 28, Ms. Hughie found impossible.

So she moved in with a friend and left the curfew behind, only to discover new stipulations: She wasn’t allowed to store food in her friend’s refrigerator or use the common space in the apartment. “I would just stay in my room, watching DVDs all the time,” she said.

From there, she found a small studio on the Upper East Side. But after a while it was too expensive — and too small — so she moved in with another friend.

She continued to bounce around, with various circumstances necessitating one move after another, while she pursued work and an apartment of her own. She blew through her limited savings. “I moved 10 times in 10 years,” she said. “I have slept in my car, slept in motels, I couch-surfed, floor-surfed — it felt like constant struggle.”

$1,004 | Astoria, Queens

Occupation: Artist, entrepreneur and youth development professional

On unpacking: Ms. Hughie did not immediately unpack when she moved into the apartment in Astoria. After 10 moves, she was afraid to settle in, and she kept most of her belongings in boxes in her closets for four months. “My dad had to tell me it’s OK to unpack,” she said. “The other shoe is not going to drop.”

On changes: When Ms. Hughie moved back to New York after more than a decade away, one of the first things that felt different was the size of the crowds on the streets, in restaurants and cafes — wherever she went in the city. “I was like, ‘Is it always this crowded?’” she said, laughing. “Where did all these people come from?”

She began to wonder whether she should have stayed in Virginia, where she had a car and a two-bedroom apartment. “I was comfortable in Virginia,” she said. “I wasn’t content, but I was comfortable. And to come back home and not be comfortable, and to feel unaccepted, unwanted, unneeded, unloved — every ‘un’ — coming back home was hard. But it was part of growing and figuring out who I am.”

Ms. Hughie drew on her employment in Virginia to land a job at a group home on 14th Street, working with young people who didn’t have families or reliable shelter. She also received a scholarship to attend the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and started getting work as an actor and writer in television and commercials.

Still, she kept looking for an affordable apartment, regularly entering housing lotteries through NYC Housing Connect, a city-run program that matches renters with the income-restricted apartments for which they qualify. She continued applying even after four attempts produced no results. She knew the odds were long, but she refused to give up.

“Hard work is great,” she said, “but sometimes you have to be at the right place at the right time. I was prepping myself for something big to happen.”

She even started packing up her belongings, as if she sensed an opportunity was about to emerge. “I started to align myself, mentally,” she said.

On her fifth try at a housing lottery, she was selected for a studio in Astoria, Queens, at 10 Halletts Point, built by the Durst Organization. The building has 405 residences, 81 of which were set aside for applicants like Ms. Hughie, with income between $34,355 and $72,600. There were more than 53,000 applications.

The rent-stabilized apartment has allowed Ms. Hughie to be more thoughtful about the work she takes. She has taught acting and debate at Intermediate School 126 and directed a short film. “I am not a struggling artist,” she said. “I am an emerging artist.”

Ms. Hughie has also pursued her entrepreneurial instincts. Shortly after moving into the apartment, she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the glands that produce moisture in some parts of the body, including the eyes and mouth. To help with the symptoms, she learned to make various salves and oils, and in 2019, she started a business, Mae Del Essentials, to sell them, along with other beauty and wellness products.

She makes body oils, scrubs, roll-ons, bath salts and more, all from her apartment. “Everything is made at this table,” she said, pointing at the cluttered surface in the middle of her kitchen. After 10 moves, she is finally comfortable taking ownership of her own living space.

And outside her door is a community she has come to rely on.

Just recently, a doorman stopped her on her way up to her apartment. “I was having a bad day and I think I’m covering it up,” she recalled, “but the guy downstairs said, ‘You’re not having a good day, are you?’ I said, ‘No, I’m in some pain.’ He said, ‘I could tell because when you’re not feeling well, you say hello differently.’ I mean, come on, they know how I say hello when I’m in pain and when I am not.”

Everyone knows her name, she said, and sometimes staff members check on her when she isn’t feeling well. She can’t afford to tip them at the end of the year, so she cooks holiday meals for them instead.

“I’m a single Black woman, and people around here check on me,” she said. “To be seen, to be really seen for who I am — the light that I am — is important when you feel like you’re alone.”

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