Tag Archives: Florida

And The Winner Is . . .

30 Nov

Today I have the privilege of announcing the person you voted for to win my $1,000 donation.  First, a bit of an explanation as to why this has taken so long.

I had planned to have this project completed in September just after I joined the ship I work on.  Well, when you consider that I was driving 2100 miles, meeting people going through rough times and writing their stories well, that turns out to be pretty time-consuming.  And then I joined the ship.  I still had some follow-up interviews as well as some stories to write when I boarded.  This meant ship to shore phone calls and writing while working an 80 hour per week job.  Add to that, satellite internet on the ship, filming for the Phoenix NBC station (see video here) and technical difficulties on the website during the voting process and I’m very happy to be able to actually announce a winner.

The winner, with 22.9% of the vote, was Jose.  But just as in life, this project is unpredictable.  You see, another reason for the delay in announcing is that Jose is homeless.  If you recall, he was living in a shelter when I met him at a job fair.  I contacted the shelter and they informed me that he was no longer living there and had gotten a job.  They gave me the name of the café he was working at and I called to see if he was in.  They informed me that he had quit the previous week and they had no idea where he was.  I tried contacting him on a cell phone number that I had for him and left multiple messages on the voicemail.  I do not know why he quit and it’s not up to me to judge.  Still, I have found it impossible to get in touch with him.  This left me with a dilemma.  What to do with the money.

I have chosen to go with the spirit of the original plan – to let the readers decide.  As the 2nd and 3rd place winners were separated by one vote, I decided to split the money between them.  They are Stella and Shanika.

Stella, if you recall, was the hurricane Katrina survivor who, after living in a church for two weeks, invited 30 family members to live in her house which she felt blessed to find still standing.  When I phoned Stella to let her know of the outcome of the Rebel Project, she was grateful.  Unfortunately, the good news was tempered with the bad news that Stella has recently been diagnosed with cancer.  Stella has provided so much strength to others that I have no doubt that she will be in many people’s prayers.

Shanika and her four children were living at a shelter run by the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  When I contacted the shelter Shanika was still there.  But, true to form, she was working to become independent.  Shanika has obtained a job cleaning houses.  While she hopes for a job which better suits her experience, she is grateful for the work.  Besides some money, the job has provided something more.  A home.  You see, The Coalition for the Homeless runs a program called Housing Now.  The Housing Now program provides assistance to those with moderate barriers to independence.  Participants must be drug free and have a job. It provides rental assistance, case management and supportive services.

When told of the financial donation I was providing Shanika told me, “This could not have come at a better time.”  Her case manager will work with her on budgeting and the best way to use this money.  Shanika continues to do her best to be a good example for her children.  “Manners and respect carry you far,” she says of her philosophy on raising her kids.

This project was very personal and I thank you for sharing it with me.  I am not only grateful for the opportunity and resources to have taken on this project, but for all of your support.  In the spirit of the Rebel-With-A-Cause project, I will ask you to do one more thing – help because you can.

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Shanikah – Homeless But Not Hopeless

6 Sep

Shanikah is a 33 year-old single mother of four children.  She has three boys and a girl ranging in ages from 21 months to 11 years.  She was born in Miami but spent much of her childhood in Freeport, Bahamas.

While never wealthy, Shanikah has always worked hard. She attended Palm Beach Community College but had to drop out due to a pregnancy.  She has worked in various positions including retail sales, telemarketing and child-care.  Her last job was as a sales associate at Dillards.  Unfortunately, she had to leave that position as her son, who was staying with relatives in the Bahamas, became ill and was hospitalized.  Knowing her first priority was as a mother she left her job and flew to the Bahamas.

Always close with her family, Shanika and her sister made a deal.  Shanika would take care of her own kids and her sister’s son, while her sister would pay the rent on their apartment in Orlando with the money she earned at her job in the Bahamas.  Shanika would find a job to pay for the groceries.  Shanika’s sister soon lost her job.  Like many other Americans, Shanikah had a difficult time finding a job.  Very quickly the money ran out.

Shanikah and her kids are now living at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  This is where I met them.  They’ve been living there for about a month and it’s somewhere Shanikah never thought she would be.  “I’ve never been homeless.  I never thought it would happen to me.”  While it was hard for her to accept help, she knew she had to do it for her children.  “I have kids.  I had to put my big girl boots on and find a place.”  Still, she fights to improve her family’s situation.  “I’d clean houses. I just want a job,” she says.

The Center provides great support to help people such as Shanikah get back on their feet.  Shanika is receiving assistance from Goodwill which is located on-site.  They provide help with resume writing, interview practice and other skills and resources for job training.  With a Boys and Girls Club also on-site, providing child care Shanikah can go on interviews.  Case Managers work with individual family needs.  As long as they are following the program and progressing, they are worked with.  “We hope to be out of here in a few weeks.  I tell them ‘Mommy’s going to try.’”

Shanikah knows that she must set an example for her children.  She teaches them to, “try to hang out with people who are trying to do something with themselves.”  And while she may be busy striving to improve her family’s situation, she is never too busy for her kids.  “If you have kids, talk to them all the time to see how they’re doing,” she says.

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