Tag Archives: homeless

How a “Broken Man” got a new start at the RCC

Guest post by John Harker, current participant at the Tallahassee Renaissance Community Center. The center provides many services to the homeless, ranging from shower and laundry facilities to medical and educational needs.

A young man signs up to volunteer at RCC

I used to look like a skeleton. All I did was drink alcohol and not eat. The doctors told me I was bleeding inside and if I didn’t stop drinking I was going to die. But now, thanks to the Renaissance Center, my life is new and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get a new start.

I began drinking when I was 10 years old. My mother and father were alcoholics and they owned a bar, so alcohol was always around and available. I hit bottom earlier this year when I walked all the way from my daughter’s home in Midway to Tallahassee in order to get away from serious family problems.

I was homeless and had heard about the Renaissance Center, but I didn’t really know what it was. I just knew I had a lot of problems and I needed help, so I walked in. I was fed up with my life. I’ve tried so many other ways to stop drinking, too many to count. I was broken.

With the help of the Center, I took the first steps towards sobriety and self sufficiency. I worked to get an apartment through the “A Place Called Home” program with Ability 1st. I have a disability, so Ability 1st helped me figure out the process of applying for benefits. I went to a 12-step sobriety program. The encouragement of the Center’s staff helped me stay the course.

You’ve got to want help. I put all I had into learning how not to drink and how to live a new life. But I can have all this knowledge and it does me no good if I don’t use it. Wisdom is knowledge applied.

Now I’m proud of what I have accomplished. I’ve been sober a few months and I have an apartment now. I went to a graphic arts school and want to continue painting pictures, even if they are just to hang on the walls of my apartment.  It’s quiet around here, except on football game nights. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Center. Now I have a future.

Working together, keeping families safe

Guest post by Arlene Bettencourt, Hendry/Glades Manager with United Way/United Way 211 and a Kiwanis Club of LaBelle member. 

The other day we helped a young lady with disabilities who was literally fleeing from a home where she felt unsafe.  She came to the LaBelle United Way House by taxi, one of our 14 Houses in the Lee, Hendry and Glades counties area.

Our partners generously stepped up to help: The Hendry Glades Homeless Coalition put her up for a weekend, the police accompanied her home to get her belongings, Salvation Army provided her with food and United Way helped her get into low-income housing.

We helped her to see that she is self-sufficient on her income. Additionally, The Kiwanis Thrift Store provided free housing supplies and furniture as she had nothing.

Except for the police, all agencies work out of this United Way House and we were able to work together to help this individual gain independence and self respect. United Way Houses provide free space for agencies to meet with clients. The United Way House in LaBelle is a one-stop shop for residents that includes partnerships with 16 agencies.

This woman is now happy, self sufficient and enjoying life.  Her family lives in town, but she has the willpower to maintain control of her life and future.

If you or someone you know may be in need of help, please dial 2-1-1 to connect with the United Way.

Day 1: A river of tears

Guest post by DCF Director of Digital Media and Outreach Niki Pocock. This blog series will follow her first trip to DCF’s Child Protection Summit. 

A news clip comes in about a baby that was shaken – I cry. I hear about a foster child who has found a forever family to call their own – I cry. I see a photo of a brightly colored mural on the walls of the room where human trafficking victims are given help – I cry.

At Summit the goal is to inspire and educate, which means lots of stories. And so … all day I have cried. The stories are uplifting, but still derived from sadness:

A foster child throws his arms around his foster mother’s neck, calling her “mom” as he gives her a huge hug.

A foster parent is recognized for showing great support for a child’s birth mother, even supplying the mother’s breast milk for the child.

A mother’s child died from medical complications. DCF helps her emotionally so she can continue to take care of her surviving child, a little boy. Her thanks towards DCF is overwhelming and humbling.

A case manager travels hours to visit all the children she helps, knowing that she is the one constant in many of their lives.

A father falls under intense financial and life stress and begins taking his frustrations out on his family. He cries as he thanks DCF for helping him get back on his feet and get mental health care. He is now a successful husband and father.

These are just a few of the many stories that made me tear up today. They are the stories that keep DCF staff in the field. Stay tuned – more blog posts (and awesome videos) to come! And be sure to follow #DCFSummit on Twitter for up-to-the-second updates.

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. www.4kidsofsfl.org; www.safe-families.org). 

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.

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.