Many think of homelessness as solely a consequence of choice: something that they can protect themselves from by making the “right” decisions about work, spending, and lifestyle. It’s easier to think of it in those terms because the reality of homelessness is much more complex and difficult than that. People can do all the “right” things, be “good” people, and still have tragedy strike without warning. That’s much harder to grapple with, as many true things in life are. However, when a community is strong, it is prepared to help everyone in their time of need. It shelters and works to protect its most vulnerable members regardless of the circumstances that brought them there. And from the ashes of hopelessness can grow the most beautiful futures- something we see time and time again in the families we work with. This is the story of one such family.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Raven, a hard-working mother of two little ones, Destiny age 5 and Kye 10 months, found herself in the middle of a divorce, had just lost her mother, her one true best friend, and no way to pay the rent. She was forced to leave the apartment she had been in for over a year and a half to move all of her belongings into a small storage shed and to live out of her car with her two young children.
Through the referral system, 2-1-1 Brevard, she was connected to the SOS (Safe Overnight Stay) program at Community of Hope and Case Manager, Nicole. Nicole worked with Raven every single day before she entered into the SOS Shelter in Melbourne- a wait due to no vacancy. Once the SOS Program had an opening, Raven gladly accepted the shelter. She would have a bed for her and the kids to sleep in at night. From there, Nicole and Raven hit the ground running. Making calls to other local agencies, reaching out to private landlords and apartment complexes, they kept hitting the same (and all too common) roadblock: the rental units all required between three to four times her income to even be considered. Working full time still was not enough to hit that requirement.
While in SOS, Raven saved every penny she had in hopes that she would have enough for a place when she found it. Nicole referred Raven to the Coordinated Housing Assessment Team (CHAT) for rental assistance and she was approved to have her first month rent and deposit paid upon finding an affordable place in her price range. With a great deal of diligence and prayer a unit meeting her needs was found and Raven was APPROVED! Lots of tears of joy and happiness would follow. With tears streaming down her face, she would repeatedly question, “Is this really happening?” Reassurance was given and the plans for the future she’d created would be set into motion.
Raven and her children have moved into their apartment and they have a place they can call “HOME”… just in time for Christmas. They will continue working with Nicole for at least the next six months to make sure that the family gets the support and guidance they need to stay housed.
Tiffanie has been through some very tough times in the past struggling with substance abuse and related issues. Over the past few years she has overcome those demons and has become a very loving and dedicated mother to Jayden (10 years old) and Noah (2 years old). However, there were still a couple of things missing.
First Tiffanie felt called to give back and help others transform their lives as she has transformed her own. To this end Community of Hope connected her with another local agency, Housing for Homeless, who were offering a peer support specialist training. This training leads to a certificate that will allow Tiffanie to be an agent of change for others with similar issues. She finished the training and is now working on earning internship and volunteer hours to attain the certificate. She is not only volunteering with Community of Hope where she is a Godsend, but also with an organization that provides mentoring and guidance to boys and young men.
Despite all of this, Tiffanie still had something missing, she has been unable to care for her middle child, Levi, as he has serious medical issues that require around the clock nursing care. Without a stable living situation and appropriate space for Levi, she was not in a position to care for him. Now that she is more financially stable she is ready but her current house is does not have a dedicated room for Levi. In July, Community of Hope will be helping Tiffanie move into a three bedroom house where she can have all of her boys under one roof.
Tim, Tracee,and their four children applied to Community of Hope in March of 2017 because the rental in which they were residing was being sold. The owner of the house gave them very little time to find a place. Although they were waiting to break ground and build their Habitat for Humanity home, once their rental was no longer an option, they had no other place to live...
Kevin and Yakita’s family, including their three children, came to Community of Hope through the Family Promise program. All three students are very involved with school programs, have very positive attitudes, and are eager to participate in CAMP HOPE. Housing instability, however, is an issues that their family has been battling for several years- making it difficult for everyone to feel secure and safe...
“Through the struggle, I saw times that were very dark and I couldn’t even see myself in what lied ahead the next day, but my I knew my kids deserved more, and that is where Community of Hope came to the rescue”
A true Floridian, Sarah* grew up in Northern Brevard raised by her father. The activities she witnessed by day and the sounds that haunted the darkness at night, lying in bed as a child, left her all too familiar with the dark side of society. As she grew and eventually became a mother herself, she would have flashbacks to her childhood and promised herself that her kids wouldn’t live with the same fear and uncertainty that she had.
However things often don’t happen the way we plan them and there were curveballs that she never expected. Life had been challenging at times, but the beginning of 2020 saw her family struggling. They were already barely surviving on her full time income alone. Covid-19 meant reduced hours, income, and the loss of child support payments just as her lease was ending and rent was set to increase. After doing the math, she realized there wouldn’t be enough make ends meet. Desperate times called for desperate measures as their housing held on by a thin thread. She had lost all hope and fell more and more behind until it seemed there were no other options.
Knowing that it would buy her a little time to help pay her rent, Sarah got involved with the dark circles she knew from her childhood and while it worked for a short time, it also resulted in criminal charges. Soon after, the thread finally broke and she was served an eviction. Her worst fear had come true: her family was experiencing the same fear and uncertainty that she had as a child. Panic stricken, Sarah couldn’t believe that she’d broken the promise she’d made to herself so long before. With no money saved, even motels were not an option.
She began to make calls on her own, trying to find a new place to live but came up empty handed each time. She wondered how, with a recent eviction and now criminal charges on her record, any future landlord would consider her family. A co-worker told Sarah about 2-1-1 Brevard. Sarah immediately reached out to the referral service and they sent her information was sent to Community of Hope’s case manager, Nicole.
Nicole reached out immediately to Sarah to assess her situation and soon learned how dire it had become. She and her four children, including a newborn, was living in a friend’s shed. A 12x12 garden shed lined with lawn equipment and gallons of paint. They had an outside spigot was used to wash up and with no way to cook food, the local Jiffy Mart was their source of food. For four months, this had been their world.
Though there were no immediate openings in the Safe Overnight Stay (SOS) program, which would provide emergency housing, Nicole stayed connected with Sarah and together they began to lay the groundwork from when an opportunity would arise. They started with obtaining documentation to acquire public aid, like insurance and SNAP benefits, then ordered official copies of birth certificates for the children and obtaining childcare. One week later, an SOS housing unit became available and the family, for the first time, were all under one safe roof.
Time pressed, the toughest challenges were ahead. Brevard County has very little in the way of affordable housing and the family had a lot of barriers to being eligible due to their history. Nicole made contact with a private landlady in northern Brevard. Understandably, they were very hesitant to take on the risk of a tenant who had an evection and pending court case on their record. However, Nicole explained our work at Community of Hope to them, and that Nicole would be following up with Sarah and her family as part of their support system if they were approved for housing. Knowing that Sarah would continue to have Community of Hope standing with her reassured the landlady that this wasn’t a risk but rather an opportunity, going from leery to being excited about what she was doing to help out this family of five- giving them a chance that no one else would.
Thought the Path of Hope program, we were able to assist in procuring funding for move in costs, as well as the beginning utilities and some of the basic furnishings that Sarah and her children would need to start their lives. Finally, Sarah and her family had found their way home- she was able to keep her promise, with some help from the community.