Category Archives: Homelessness

Strangers have become friends

Guest post by Safe Families for Children, a program of 4Kids of South Florida. Safe Families for Children is a national movement of compassion that gives hope to families in crisis. Safe, loving homes are provided where parents may voluntarily have their children cared for while parents seek to restore stability in their lives.; 

Maria, a single mom with two young boys—Steve and Ryan—called the Safe Families office in desperation.  Not only was she living at a homeless shelter that she would soon have to leave, but she was pregnant with her third child.  The homeless shelter told her she had a week to find alternative housing for her and the boys.  Tears streamed down her face as she met with Safe Families staff, deeply upset but glad that her boys would have a safe place to stay.

Safe Families staff quickly contacted the Rena family, a couple without children of their own who were a newly certified Safe Family.  The Renas called Maria and visited the homeless shelter several times before placement in order to ease Maria’s fears and make the boys’ transition to their home as smooth as possible.  Despite Maria’s anxiety over their situation, she placed her boys with the Rena family, knowing they would be well cared for.

As the boys had been previously abused by their father, the Renas soon realized that there were behavioral challenges to address.  However, Maria and the Renas worked together to provide the stability and consistency the boys needed.  Staff helped the Renas in problem-solving and the Renas soon realized the extent of the joys and pains of parenting.  Yet they were determined to continue loving Steve and Ryan, knowing how much the boys needed them.

Meanwhile, Maria lived in various friends’ homes until giving birth to a beautiful baby girl named Ana.  Soon after Ana’s birth, Maria found a place she could afford to rent.  Some local church volunteers provided her with a washing machine and some furniture.  Another volunteer named Sarah took Maria shopping for professional clothes that she could wear to job interviews.  Sarah also shared in Maria’s excitement when Maria called her one day to let her know she got a job.

While Ryan and Steve often called and visited their mom, they deeply missed her.  As the three-month placement neared its end, the Renas made a countdown chart for the boys as they eagerly anticipated going home.  Maria and her boys are together again and yet the story continues to unfold.  The boys consistently see the Renas, as the Renas make it a point to take them to fun activities.

Strangers have become friends and lifelong memories have been formed.  While life continues to bring its challenges, Maria and her children were given a chance to start afresh and there is hope for a better and brighter future.

Keeping little bellies full

Guest post by Kimberly Kutch, DCF Community Development Administrator for Circuit 20 (serving Charlotte, Glades, Lee Hendry and Collier counties)

Jolene Mowry knew that, sadly, many children go to bed hungry. She was sure that wasn’t the case in Charlotte County where she lived.

Jolene was in North Carolina speaking to a friend about the number of kids in school who often go hungry.  The friend told Jolene she may be surprised if she spoke with local schools back home.

What Jolene found was frightening. Approximately 455 students in Charlotte County Public School district are homeless.  She decided to do something about it.

Jolene Mowry, Director of The Back Pack Kidz; Angela Kirshy, Back Pack Kidz Volunteer.

Jolene founded the The Yah Yah Girls Inc. Their mission: “Help children in Charlotte County who are homeless, near homeless or who are living in dire financial need.” In November 2010, after much research, planning and fundraising, the Yah Yahs began their Back Pack Kidz Program at Sallie Jones Elementary  School.  By Fall 2011 the Back Pack Kidz program expanded to five elementary schools and hope to continue to grow.

Delivering backpacks to a school

Here’s how Back Pack Kidz works: On Fridays, the Yah Yahs deliver backpacks of healthy, nonperishable, child-friendly food to the schools to distribute to the identified children so they will not go hungry over the weekend. The empty backpacks are picked up early the next week and the process begins again.

Volunteers packing back packs with food.

For the 2012/2013 school year, there are 4,762 students eligible for free and reduced breakfast/lunch in the area. These are children who often do not have access to regular meals outside of schools. In the 2011/2012 school year, about 22,000 backpacks were delivered. Weekly, $107,250 was spent on food for the backpacks.

The Yah Yahs have now become a part of DCF’s Partner for Promise program and will be providing backpacks of food for any elementary school child that may go hungry without additional help.

The power of just one individual is amazing. The power of groups is empowering. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference in your community.


If you know a child under age 19 who needs food during the summer months, please visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Summer BreakSpot. The program offers free healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks all summer long.  

Does your business have a service or product that could help needy families in your community? Check out DCF’s Partners for Promise to see how you can help.

There are angels among us

Guest post by Amy Larson, who was helped through DCF Central Region’s Homeless 2 Home program

The Larson family in their new home

My family recently went through one of the worst experiences of our lives: Homelessness. We lost our apartment due to the loss of employment and serious illness. This landed us in a motel. Never knowing what was coming next to how to keep even that roof over our heads.

This is when we were introduced to Ms. Anna O’Brien, coordinator of Homeless 2 Home in DCF’s Central Region. I consider her my angel. She immediately got to work finding donations for clothes and personal items we desperately needed. And she got me connected with some organizations that helped me find a full-time job at a very good company. And we were relocated to a wonderful three-bedroom apartment.

Life is still a bit of an adjustment, but at least now my family has a life to be proud of.

Thank you to Anna and all of the angels that helped her along the way.


Organizations that helped the Larson family include Southern Affordable Services and Westgate Resorts Foundation, who are DCF Partners for Promise. In addition, A Child at Heart offered services.