From Hungry and Homeless to Giving Her All to God
Deonna and her fiancé came to Florida in search of a fresh start. Instead, their problems followed them down here from Allentown, Pa., and were compounded when the money ran out.
“Our relationship took a turn for the worse. We started arguing and it wasn’t good for our kids,” Deonna said. “Within a week of getting here, we were homeless. We lived in a hotel for five days with absolutely no money. Thankfully, the people at the hotel gave us some food or we wouldn’t have been able to eat.”
The couple quickly split up, with Deonna taking her children – 5-year-old Davionna and 2-year-old Javier – to live with her uncle in New Orleans. But four months later, she was ready to give it one more try with her fiancé in Orlando.
“We tried to work it out but it just didn’t work,” she said. “We had been together eight years but it just wasn’t there anymore. He actually left us and went back to Pennsylvania.”
So there was Deonna, a single mother with two young children alone in a new city.
“I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I’m homeless with two kids, stranded,” Deonna said. “I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.”
Deonna had made some friends in town and they let her and the kids stay with them for a while. “They provided everything for me and they helped me apply for government assistance,” she said. “But after three months, they said they just couldn’t do it any more.”
Being asked to leave was the rock bottom moment for Deonna.
“I cried for hours. I stared at my kids and wondered what was going to happen to us,” she said. “How am I supposed to provide for two little kids when I can’t provide for myself? I cried and cried and cried.”
Deonna made dozens of calls and performed countless web searches looking for help before giving up. But a voice inside told her to try one more time and, for some reason, it said to enter the words “rescue mission.”
“I had never heard of a rescue mission and I didn’t even know what it meant,” she said. “But I did it and at the top of the list was the Orlando Union Rescue Mission. I know now that voice was God speaking to me. He literally led me to the Mission.”
Deonna clicked onto the Mission’s website and was amazed. The place looked nothing like she imagined a homeless shelter would look.
“Everybody in the pictures looked so happy. I read about the staff and they seemed so heart-filled,” she said. “It looked like the perfect place – almost too good to be true.”
When Deonna and the kids moved in on Dec. 8, 2012, she saw that the pictures didn’t lie.
“When I thought of shelters, I thought of a bunch of women and children sharing a room and sleeping on cots. I couldn’t do that to my kids,” she said. “When they showed me my room, I was so happy that I started to cry. My kids were going to have their own beds. I was going to have my own bed. We were going to be safe.”
Relieved that her family had a place to stay, Deonna began dealing with the issues that led her to homelessness. That started with the Victorious Life Class, a two-week course on biblical principals.
“That was my changing point. I grew up knowing about the Bible and God and stuff like that, but I never had a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Deonna said. “That class opened my eyes and changed my whole perspective on life.”
Deonna accepted Jesus as her Savior and was baptized in January – a month after arriving. She dedicated her children in February. “After I did that, I felt like I could do anything as long as I have Christ and I am giving my all to Him, and that’s how I’ve lived every day since then.”
Next up for Deonna was getting her high school diploma. Through the Career Learning Center, she took the courses she needed and passed four of the five tests. She’s on the verge of passing math and getting her diploma, and then she plans to attend Florida College of Natural Health to become a massage therapist.
Over the summer, Deonna got a job as an inside sales representative with a finance company in Kissimmee and moved out of the Mission and into a small apartment with her daughter and son. And though she was only here about six months, Deonna considers it the most important period of her life.
“I am doing better today than I ever thought I would be after moving to Florida with absolutely nothing,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be without the Mission. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”
During her six months at the Mission, Deonna gave her life to Christ, worked towards receiving her high school diploma and was able to get a good job. Each day, O.U.R. Mission Home offers life-changing care to more than 30 families, like Deonna’s. Your gift of $26.82 provides a hot meal and life-changing care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida