From Homeless to Hopeful

Everyone has a story; sometimes it just takes a compassionate person who’s willing to listen to that story to connect a person with the help he or she needs.

One such story that sticks out to Tina Crooks, a We Care case manager, is that of a single father from out of state. A sandblaster by trade, he lost work in his hometown and ended up selling his car and giving the money to his parents. He left his children with them because he had a job waiting in Jacksonville. With no means of transportation, the man hitchhiked all the way here. Things took a turn for the worst when he was robbed while en route to Jacksonville. Without a proper form of identification, he could not get the job. Left with few other options, he went to the Sulzbacher Center in Downtown and got a day job. Once more, he was robbed — but his situation was made worse when someone broke his jaw. Due to his homelessness, prevented him from getting a UF Health card, and UF Health could not offer him services until the swelling in his jaw subsided.

This man was in desperate need of a maxillofacial surgeon’s assistance. Fortunately, a social worker from Mission House referred him to Crooks. Crooks connected with the secretary of the dean of maxillofacial surgery at UF Health. After Crooks told the man’s story, the secretary managed to get him into the emergency room for surgery in which his jaw was wired shut. He remained on a liquid diet until his jaw recovered. The directors of Mission House and We Care worked together to provide him with shelter at an extended stay hotel until he felt better. If he had been in the streets, he would have been at a significantly higher risk of infection, and he would not have been able to yell for help if he needed it.

After three weeks in the hotel, the wires were removed and he started to look for a job. To start, he volunteered at Mission House. Soon, though, he got a job on the shipyards doing what he knows best: sandblasting. To make things even better, a minister with a house on the Northside is now providing him with a place to stay until he can save up the money to get his own place and to bring his children to Jacksonville.

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