Client Stories

Read the heart-warming stories below of some of our clients,
whose lives have been changed for the better by your
generous support of Camillus House.
Donate Online Solis is living proof that there's hope — even when you're dealt a bad hand.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to an addict mother, he was surrounded by violence, drugs and shootings. Removed from his home at age four by Child Protective Services, he grew up a ward of the State, where “they shuffled me like a deck of cards,” he says. He responded by frequently running away.

Fortunately, he always was good in school, and managed to graduate high school in spite of his behavior problems. A counselor at Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York helped him channel his aggression in the boxing ring and through sports. But Joe is the first to say he “grew up angry, tough and hard…and I played the victim,” he adds. Read more... one would have predicted what happened to Virgil Stewart. A third-generation Floridian, Virgil spent 37 years in construction. As a licensed construction supervisor, he traveled all over the United States and the Caribbean, completing projects for some of the big names in the industry. He made good money. Life was going well.

But then the bottom fell out of the construction industry as the economy went into steep decline in 2007. Virgil was laid off and couldn't find work. He was living with a girlfriend in a big house near Sarasota, and he ran through his money. When they broke up, he came to Miami thinking maybe he would find better opportunities for work.

His first night in Miami, he was robbed. He lost his money, his laptop, “everything,” he says.

Suddenly Virgil was unemployed, broke and homeless.

2011 was the worst year in Aaron Harrigan’s young life.

“As much as could go wrong in one year, did…” he said, his soft voice trailing off. It wasn’t supposed to be that way.

At the beginning of 2011, things were looking bright. Even though Aaron, 27, had been laid off from his FIU-sponsored Phoenix Project job with Miami-Dade County due to budget cuts, he was in school, working toward a degree in computer engineering. He and his fiancée were expecting their first child in June. Then, everything went horribly wrong.

Aaron’s fiancée died from complications after giving birth to their daughter, Liana. Read more...

Thomas moved to Miami hoping for a better life, but when he fell in with the wrong crowd he found himself in trouble with the law.

Released from prison with nowhere to go and no family to ask for help, Thomas called Camillus House and got his first taste of Camillus' Compassionate Hospitality. They sent a van to pick him up, provided a safe place to stay, clean clothes, nourishing food — and a fresh start.

Through the Job Opportunity Bureau, Thomas got the training he needed to get a job and now lives in his own apartment. Looking toward the future, he plans to earn an accounting degree. "When I came here, I had nothing," Thomas says. "When I left, I had a lot. A whole lot."

Born of Cuban parents, Diana married at 19 to escape the burden of raising five brothers and a sister, only to suffer systematic mental and physical abuse from her husband.

Seeking a better life for herself and her children, she moved to a one-bedroom apartment at a shelter and later to Camillus House’s Mother Seton Village, a transitional housing facility. While there, Diana’s drive, spunk and loving way with children caught the attention of one of the counselors who encouraged Diana to start her own daycare center. She took training courses and became a certified daycare operator.

Working seven days a week, she saved enough money to purchase her own house and operate a daycare center from her home. Ever the go-getter, Diana’s goal is to open a 24/7 commercial daycare center to look after children from a nearby shelter.

Quentin moved to Miami to be near his daughter. But even with a master's degree and some law school courses, he couldn't find work.

In time, Quentin ran out of money and became homeless. "I had to humble myself and ask someone to help me," he said. Outreach workers brought him to Camillus House and provided Quentin a place to stay, meals and employment-counseling services. They helped the former adjunct professor land a teaching job at a public school.

Quentin plans "to help turn the schools around, get a Ph.D in administration, even be a principal." He also plans to give his time to charity and stay connected to Camillus House. "Thanks to them, I can tell my daughter that her dad is almost where he is supposed to be."

Patiana and her four-year-old son, Montrel, are making a new start at Camillus House. Before coming to Camillus, Patiana had never had a place of her own, never learned how to pay bills and never had a receipt in her own name.

Today Patiana and Montrel live at the Camillus House Somerville Residences.

Thanks to the generosity of people like you, Patiana now has a job, she pays her own bills and is learning to be a responsible parent. “It makes me feel good to have something of my own,” Patiana explains. “I feel this is my home.”

Twenty-one-year-old Giovan always dreamed of working in the United States. After he made it to America and found a job, he started sending money home to his family in Mexico.

One day after work Giovan was attacked by four men. They robbed him of everything he had and beat him so badly he lost four front teeth and almost his life. He woke up at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he was treated. He was discharged with no money and nowhere to go.

Then he remembered someone at the hospital had told him about Camillus House. There he found shelter, medical care and people who cared about him. Thanks to your support, Camillus House was able to give Giovan a brand-new start, not to mention a brand-new smile.


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