Life Can Change in an Instant

This month, we want to introduce you to one of the families we had the pleasure of serving through our Safe Overnight Stay (SOS) program. Click below to hear their story!

Darryl is a veteran of the US Army, a loving husband to his wife Shamell, father of one, and grandfather of seven. He’d had a full career after the army, working a full time as a chef in their home, Pennsylvania. That would all change in a moment, though, when he woke up in the hospital after a car accident that would leave him with restricted mobility and excruciating pain for the rest of his life.  It put limitations on what duties he could perform as part of his daily routine. With time and further imaging, Darryl’s doctors determined that invasive surgery would be a requirement if he was to have any chance of regaining any mobilization back in his neck or right arm.  A metal plate was inserted in his neck, connecting two of the upper vertebrae.

Now recovering from major surgery and struggling financially, Darryl and his wife moved into their daughter’s home with her seven children until they could began receiving disability assistance. Even with those funds, it soon became apparent that it was not going to be enough to live independently. With a ten person household, money was tight and each month the rent got a little bit further behind. Before they knew it, an eviction was ordered. Facing the prospect of homelessness in the harsh Pennsylvania winter, Darryl and Shamell were forced to take a hard look at their choices. They didn’t have the income to sustain them in their current location, and the weather was going to be especially hard on them. The decision was made that Darryl and Shamell would move down to Florida (with its more bearable weather) and his daughter and her children would be staying in Pennsylvania. Before leaving, they knew that having seven children was going to be more than their daughter could handle during this transition, so they proposed to take on custody of their youngest grandchild, Sharyia, who would travel with them to Florida.

Once they arrived in the Sunshine State, they had enough for a hotel stay for a few nights. It didn’t take long, though, for the money to run out and they found themselves living in their van.  In the search for immediate resources, Shamell contacted 2-1-1 Brevard for assistance.  Through the county referral system, they were connected to the SOS (Safe Overnight Stay) program at Community of Hope and secure shelter to work through their plans.

While they were with us, our case manager Nicole worked with both Darryl and Shamell to define what their needs going forward would be. Nicole referred them to the Coordinated Housing Assessment Team (CHAT) for rental assistance and they were approved to have their first month rent and deposit paid so long as they could find affordable housing.  But time was running out: they needed a long-term plan. Sharyia needed daycare placement (which was coordinated through the Early Learning Coalition) so Shamell could find full time employment to assure their family that whatever housing they ended up with would be sustainable- the disability payments would not cover their bills so she worked on her resume and began applying for positions.

Using our community connections, Nicole inquired with another local organization, Housing for Homeless, to see if they had available housing.  An application was fill out, with ‘i's dotted and ‘t's were crossed, then submitted.  They waited, praying this is would be the door that would open. Because of their current income, their only other choice would be returning to their van until something opened up.

The day after putting in the application, Nicole got an email while doing a visit with the family that they were APPROVED for a unit with Housing for Homeless.  Darryl’s face lit with happiness and tears of happiness and gratitude filled his eyes as Shamell danced with joy in the living room: they were finally going to be able to go Home. There are still many challenges ahead, but with a lot of work and a lot of love within their family and the community, we know they are going to be just fine.