Family Stays Together While Getting Back On Their Feet
Jennifer and her three children came to the Orlando Union Rescue Mission in 2004 after Jennifer was laid off from her job. Since she was living paycheck to paycheck, she knew the family would face eviction and immediately started researching different shelters so they would not end up on the streets.
“If I had financially known better, I would have saved for a rainy day. We wouldn’t have needed this place,” Jennifer said. “But being a single mother is hard because money is always tight. I was afraid we would end up living in our car.”
When she was looking at shelters, she was shocked when she was told that Michael and Jesse, her 13- and 12-year-old boys, would not be allowed to come with her and her year-old daughter, Emily, in most of them. “They are already going through enough and I did not want to send them somewhere that could do even more damage,” she said. “The Mission is the only place that would let us all stay together.”
It was here that the family started to rebuild their lives – on a new, lasting foundation. Jennifer and her sons started the Victorious Life Program to learn and grow in their relationships with God. Michael and Jesse had no positive male figure in their lives so they quickly grew to love the pastor who taught the class. They also became attached to the staff members who ran the after-school activities in the Family Life Center. This positive influence came in at the perfect time, as both were entering into their teenage years.
“The Mission was our family,” Jennifer said. “There’s a real stigma that comes with being homeless but we didn’t find that here. That’s what enabled us to grow.”
Jennifer found an accounting job while living at the Mission and immediately started saving money for a new place. They were eventually able to move out on their own – but the impact of the Mission has had a lasting effect on each member of the family. Jennifer’s sons both returned frequently to volunteer in the children’s activities at the Family Life Center. They were so committed to volunteering that they became full-time employees. “I can’t brag about them enough!” Jennifer beamed. “They give back to other kids the way they were cared for when they were that age.”
Jennifer also comes to spend time with the children. She has a heart to help them understand that they are not homeless; they have a home at Mission. “Serving others is the best way to get out of the sad mindset that comes with hard circumstances,” Jennifer explained. She helps them make sandwiches and care packages to give to men and women who really are living on the streets.
Today, Jennifer, Jesse and Emily live together in Altamonte Springs. Michael has a place of his own minutes from their home. Jennifer works full time for One Heart for Women and Children, a local food pantry that helps single parents provide food and other household necessities for their families. Emily is now 9 years old and often volunteers with her mom at the Mission – her favorite place to volunteer is the early learning center. Jesse and Michael work full time at the Mission’s Family Life Center.
Jennifer can vividly remember was it was like to be hungry and wonder how she was going to keep the water running at home. She attributes the growth she experienced at the Mission as her fuel to help others who are facing the same thing. “I go to bed exhausted every night, but it’s the best kind of tired. I know I did something to make difference in the life of another,” she said.
Jennifer and her family are grateful that they weren’t separated during the darkest period of their lives. Each day, O.U.R. Mission Home offers life-changing care to more than 30 families, like Jennifer’s. Help create more stories of life transformation through your support today. Each gift of $26.82 provides a hot meal and life changing care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida.