Joanne Tavares’ face is blank, she can’t find words to describe her family’s circumstances. Her husband, José, glances at her and then speaks softly to a visitor, “Here’s what it took for us to get here. I’ll tell you what happened…”
José is referring to the place their family has called home for almost two years. The three-bedroom apartment at Camillus House’s Mother Seton Village is well-kept and has a tranquil feel. It smells like fresh paint. José, who needs insulin daily and is legally blind, has gone around touching up the walls in preparation for the interview.
Joanne has taken time off work to sit in the family room and try to evoke painful memories – and to share why she feels new hope for the future.
The family’s story goes back to many years when undiagnosed diabetes started hampering José’s sight. He had to stop working as a truck driver for a flower growing company. For five years the family scraped by, but by Christmas of that year, José, 52, and Joanne, 41, and their five children were homeless.
When Camillus House learned of the family’s plight, they were taken in at Mother Seton Village, a Permanent housing program for families operated by Camillus House in the former Homestead Air Force Reserve Base.
“We have enough space here for the children to have their own bedrooms,” Joanne explains. “We received all we needed at a time when we couldn’t take care of them ourselves: school uniforms, book vouchers, kitchen supplies and bus passes… We had only to ask our Camillus’ case manager and we were helped.”
With the compassion and stability they found at Camillus House, the family has rebounded.
The children are doing well in school. They have after-school tutoring, an on-site playground and access to Summer Camps at the Village. And, thanks to Camillus and her own initiative and enthusiasm, Joanne has gone back to school and earned Security Guard and CNA nursing certificates to add to her pharmacy technician training.
“It’s tough to find a job,” she says, pointing out how helpful it has been having access to a computer linked to a jobs database as well as attending Job Fairs set up for Camillus clients.
She now has a job greeting customers in English and Spanish at a nearby electronics store that allows her to be home when the children arrive from school.
All is looking up for the family now. They are stable and looking forward to a brighter future. But that doesn’t mean they’re standing still.
“Una bendición, a blessing,” says a smiling Joanne referring to how Camillus House was there for them and changed everything during their darkest hour.
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