Cortasia and Sha-Kandi Bellamy were living in their own apartment at the ages of 21 and 22 when they were put out of their apartment. However, this was not their first experience with homelessness. Cortasia and Sha-Kandi had challenges with the lack of resources provided to them for support. They also state that when they did know of resources, many times there were required waiting lists or where they were only open during work hours; forcing them to choose between working or accessing the resources. They found out about Gulfstream Goodwill’s Lewis center shelter through word of mouth, contacted navigation, and subsequently were admitted to the shelter.
Upon admission to the Lewis center, Cortasia and Sha-Kandi felt support from the directors of the shelter. They said that the most important support that they received before being housed was that their small successes were celebrated and they were met with friendly understanding individuals. This pushed them to continue to want to grow and do better for themselves.
After spending time at the Lewis center, they were moved into the Youth Rapid-Rehousing program. They report that this experience in the program was impactful in many different ways. Cortasia and Sha-Kandi express learning more about budgeting, how to balance life responsibilities, and new ways to manage stress. They also were grateful for connecting with a therapist and connecting with their case managers. They appreciated the connection built with their case managers, reporting specifically that they felt treated liked people, and felt more comfortable exploring previous challenges. While in the program, both Sha-Kandi and Cortasia obtained full time employment with benefits, as housing technicians in Gulfstream Goodwill’s Lewis Center; helping other individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Cortasia and Sha-Kandi put in the work to maintain housing. After successfully graduating from the Rapid Rehousing pro-gram, Cortasia and Sha-Kandi moved out of their one bedroom apartment, into a two bedroom apartment. They continue to maintain their jobs and wish to grow within the Gulfstream Goodwill family to continue to help others. In addition, Sha-Kandi has developed her LLC Kandid Kustomz. They also report that one of the biggest things since graduating is that they are stable and confident in managing their life, which brings peace. In the future they plan to renew their vows, and travel more.
The cost of living and lack of available resources, or knowledge of resources is a common challenge leading to homelessness. Cortasia encourages individuals experiencing homelessness to “keep striving towards your goals, take advantage of the re-sources and take them seriously. I also want to remind people that distraction leads to destruction and to focus on yourself, it’s not easy but it’s worth it.” Sha-Kandi’s advice is “don’t be afraid to talk about it. Talking about it will lead you to resources to help and everybody’s success story looks different.”