When you look at Kizzy Sims and her five children, you would never guess that they’ve been homeless for the last year. They are a happy family, and the brightly dressed kids are laughing as they clamor for their young mother’s attention. They all flash big smiles as they talk about their new life while bouncing around their brand new, three-bedroom apartment.
Kizzy and her children (Traynon, 6 years old; Sirporia, 5; Brenishia, 4; TiChina, 2½; and Ives – 1½) moved into Mother Seton Village (MSV), a permanent housing program for families with children who are homeless. Located on the former Homestead Air Reserve Base, MSV encompasses a total of thirty-seven (39 one, two, and four-bedroom apartments with approximately 162 Beds.
Kizzy is shy, and she focuses most of her attention on the children in her lap as she describes her life. “It’s been hard,” she says, “but I’m really working to be more independent now. I’m going to make it work.”
The road to homelessness began with Kizzy’s rough childhood in Overtown. A victim of abuse, she dropped out of school in the eighth grade and struggled to survive ongoing difficulties. When she finally sought help, she was placed at the Homeless Assistance Center (HAC) in South Dade to protect her from the domestic violence that plagued her in Overtown.
The HAC offered Kizzy and her children a wonderful respite from their previously terrifying world. The youngest children were enrolled in the classes offered on-site, while the older children began attending Chapman Elementary School. Kizzy took life skills classes and was helped in searching for a job. After completing the short-term program at the HAC, she was placed into the Mother Seton Village.
MSV includes single family apartments with up to four bedrooms, clustered in multiplexes of several units each. Apartments have their own bathrooms and kitchens, and share communal laundry facilities. A basketball court and playground are part of the complex. Administrative and case management offices are located on-site.
Life still isn’t easy for residents, though. They must pay rent and hold down a job. Case Managers help residents learn to save money, putting away a little bit each week so that they have savings.
Kenneth King, VP of Housing, oversees the case management team who help residents continue to improve their life skills, and coordinate group functions where residents learn better socialization skills. Other services include after-school tutoring. The ultimate goal is to help stabilize the individuals and families at MSV so that they can live completely independent and self-sufficient.
Kizzy now works full-time packing and shipping toys, taking the bus each day to the factory. On weekends the buses shut down early, and sometimes she has to get a ride.
But Kizzy still loves the new life. The older children love their school, proudly showing off their completed assignments. Books overflow from the bookshelf on the wall. The new furniture is carefully arranged, and Kizzy keeps the home immaculately clean.
Mostly, though, Kizzy says she likes the peace and quiet. “The HAC was really great to me, but you still have to share everything there. I like to be able to cook my own meals now, and have my own bedroom, and sleep as late as I want to.” The newfound privacy of life with her children is a welcome reward after all she’s been through.
While proud of her new independence, Kizzy is still a little nervous about the future. She talks about going back to school to earn her GED. The family has grown to like life in South Dade and hopes to stay here. “My children aren’t afraid anymore,” beams Kizzy. The family is building a life here.
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