NEW YORK -- Somehow, the sweetness of Tasha Carter has endured.
When she was 10, Ms. Carter lived in gymnasiums and welfare hotels, close to a dozen in all. As the oldest, she cared for five brothers and sisters, teaching them not to use the drugs that long ago turned her parents into "babies -- out of control, crying all the time, out of control."
Now 19, Ms. Carter works the switchboard at the city morgue. She has a high-school diploma and big dreams about a house in the suburbs and law school.
She also has a husband and four children, ages 4, 3, 2 and 1.
What she doesn't have is a home.
Ms. Carter and her family have lived in a city shelter in the South Bronx for seven months. She hates the curfews, spot inspections, security guards. The neighborhood -- a godforsaken place that knows little hope -- is not a place she would have her children call "home."
Still, she said, "A lot of people are worse off." She makes $350 a week on the night shift. Her husband, Thomas Allen, cares for the children while she works.
The family had nowhere to go after they left Ms. Carter's mother's small apartment, where, she said, "there were just too many people." They hope for public housing.
"I remember, growing up, the shootings in the hallways, the murders, the drugs. It was like a war, I guess," the soft-spoken woman said. "I think as long as you try to help yourself, and do for yourself, why you just do. I don't ask why this happened. I just do."