In 2008, the economy collapsed and Jermel lost his job. Even with a business degree, it was hard to find work and even harder for him to hold onto his home. In time, Jermel lost that too. And so began a transient life of staying with friends, living in his car, working part-time and just getting by. “Then my teenage children came to live with me. We had to find a different solution.”
For a while, that solution was to live in their church office. By day, the children attended school and Jermel worked multiple part-time jobs. At night, they’d settle in once the church closed. “The children didn’t like it, but we developed a routine and tried to get as comfortable as possible.”
After calling a number of places, Jermel connected with Families Together. Soon, he and his children moved into one of the Short-term Family Apartments which provided privacy and a more homelike feeling.
“The staff was very kind. I felt welcome and not so isolated. The kids were happy finally to have their space. They could stretch out and not have to sleep in chairs.”
When he talks about working with his Mentor Advocate, Jermel chuckles. “From day one, she was always saying, ‘Okay, let’s find you a place live.’ After what we’d been through, I just wanted to lay down my head for a little while! But she worked diligently to find housing for us.”
Ultimately, persistence paid off for Jermel and his family in both the housing and job arenas. He found full-time employment and he and his children received assistance from Families Together to move into their own apartment. “Being homeless, you have no control. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the street, or staying with a friend, or sleeping in a hotel. That control is precious and I’ll do everything I can not to lose it again.”
Even though Jermel and his family have “graduated” from the Families Together program, there is still a connection. Before becoming homeless, he had already co-founded his own nonprofit, We Are One Community Outreach, which serves the needs of the rural communities just outside the city. “Our focus is revitalizing the community, educating the youth, uplifting humanity, and restoring our society as a whole.” And recently, Jermel reached out to Families Together to partner for a special fundraising event which helped raise money for both nonprofits.
These days, Jermel keeps a schedule that would tire the average human. “I work my regular job during the day, attend graduate school at night, and we’re growing our nonprofit so I can run it full-time.”
When asked to reflect on the impact of being homeless on his service to the community,
he acknowledges that he’s changed. “I knew I wanted to serve those in need, but after experiencing homelessness, I can definitely say that now I have more understanding and more passion.”