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A family in front of a house

An Actual Home For The Holidays

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“There are many reasons why a family or individual becomes homeless. Everyone deserves a home, a safe place to live, an affordable place to live. No one should have to worry about a roof over their head.” - Kimberlee Sheffield, New Hope CORPS
“I never had anyone like this before; I am thankful for the journey with Ms. Kim- forever grateful.” - Latoya Manker
Truer words have never been sung than Perry Como's "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays." For many in our unhoused community who find themselves without a place to call home, the holiday season can amplify feelings of depression and hopelessness. Yet, in the midst of so much uncertainty for so many, there are miracles that appear.
Just a few weeks ago, Latoya Manker (pictured in orange above) and her four children, one-year-old son Chrisnel, three-year-old daughter Christina, five-year-old son Ulriyoun, and 16-year-old son Dequandre, were homeless. Ms. Manker’s 11-year-old son, DaeQuan, passed away after a battle with COVID-19. While trying to cope with the overwhelming loss, Latoya lost her home and belongings.
Without transportation, a job or a home, yet still caring for her remaining four children, Latoya submitted housing application after application to no avail; she thought she would never be able to escape her circumstance. But then, in a string of holiday hope, New Hope CORPS’ Kimberlee Sheffield (pictured in black above) stepped into her life and helped Latoya find new hope.
“After being let down so many times, God basically sent Ms. Kim to me because I was at the weakest place in my life. I didn’t know how someone could be so uplifting. There is nothing like having a place to provide for your kids. I already lost one kid. I couldn’t let my other kids down,” Latoya recalled of Ms. Sheffield’s role.
Sheffield is a Housing Navigator, funded through the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, working to locate and connect clients to affordable housing while supporting them as they transition from an emergency shelter into a new residence. In addition, Kimberlee develops individualized care plans. She uses the Critical Time Intervention (CTI) model to blend case management services and mentoring with support for months following placement with the goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness once and for all.
Kimberlee placed Latoya and her four children in a home just in time for the holidays. Sitting down with Kimberlee, we asked how Latoya's story impacted her.
“Ms. Manker lost her 11-year-old son due to COVID-19. My empathy for her and her family was overwhelming, to say the least. And if that was not enough, due to funeral expenses, she became behind on her rent. Then her landlord decided to sell the property, which resulted in the family becoming homeless.” Kimberlee continued, “This struck more than just a chord; it shook me. I could not imagine the effect these series of events were having on the family.”
Some would call Kimberlee and Latoya’s meeting a bit of holiday fate, and Kimberlee would have to agree, but it also takes special landlords like Ms. Sandra Vincent to step in and help change lives.
Kimberlee was working at her desk when “another property owner we work closely with contacted me that she had a landlord seeking a tenant and wanted to work with us. I contacted Ms. Sandra Vincent (pictured in blue above) and was on my way to view the property when I received an email regarding Ms. Latoya Manker and her dilemma… [I learned then that…] Ms. Manker and her family were living out of their vehicle.”
Landlords like Ms. Vincent open their hearts to working with our rental assistance programs and are often surprised at how gratifying the experience can be. “Often you have an impression that people in a shelter are reaching out for help because of misdoing, but that is not the case at all. In Latoya’s case, there is a lot to it. Latoya is a caring parent and needs an opportunity to get settled again with her family. You have a home, and you want to get it rented… to be able to contribute to the community and individual families who are in need; it is a privilege.”
Kimberlee has worked to identify the challenges in Ms. Manker’s life and is working with her family. “There are many reasons why a family or individual becomes homeless. Everyone deserves a home, a safe place to live. An affordable place to live. No one should have to worry about a roof over their head.”