connect COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
MAKE A ! DIFFERENCE
“We’re finally back together.”
Petra and Michael’s Story
Dear Friends, If you’ve recently sent us mail and your letter was returned, we want you to know that we have not moved. Our address is still 639 West Central Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32801. An unfortunate error occurred on the part of the USPS that is now corrected. We have no way of knowing exactly how many donations we lost, but I can tell you that it was no small amount. If your gift was returned, I hope you’ll use the envelope included in this newsletter to resend your contribution. You might not know this, but the majority of our funding comes from private sources, including generous individuals like you. Perhaps you’re thinking, “It was just a $25 check. It won’t make a big difference.” But I want you to know that $25 provides 10 children with an entire week of nutritious meals. To those 10 children, it makes a very big difference. Your generosity helps us transform lives of homeless men, women, and children each and every day, and I can’t thank you enough for your support. Together, we can and will make Central Florida a better place for all. Sincerely,
Brent A. Trotter President/CEO
you CHANGE LIVES!
Board of Directors Chairman Samuel C. “Trip” Stephens III ZOM, Inc. Vice Chair Douglas M. Spencer Spencer Consulting Services Secretary Christopher C. Brockman Holland & Knight LLP Treasurer Mindy Willis Orlando Utilities Commission President/CEO Brent A. Trotter Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Inc. Steven Alexander, PFM Asset Management, LLC Marc Angle, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management Timothy R. Baker, AIA, Baker Barrios Architects, Inc. Brooke R. Bonnett, City of Orlando Bakari F. Burns, Health Care Center for the Homeless, Inc. Fara K. Dantzler, Wells Fargo Bank N.A. Eric David, Expedia Local Expert Miranda F. “Randi” Fitzgerald, Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A. Jim Fritz, Orlando Magic Eric D. Gassman, Orange County Government Aaron Hill, Reed Nissan Christine S. Kefauver, HDR, Inc.
Fred R. Kittinger, Jr., University of Central Florida Ben Lalikos, IBERIABANK Ronald R. Lamb, SunTrust Bank Meagan Martin, Baker & Hostetler LLP Sean A. McLaughlin, Sungate Capital Michael Miller, Miller Air Group Lee Nimkoff, Brio Properties Elena H. Norman, Community Volunteer T. Todd Pittenger, Akerman LLP Stacey A. Prince-Troutman, Broad and Cassel John Rivers, 4R Restaurant Group Ty G. Roofner, Burr & Forman LLP Randy E. Schimmelpfennig, SchimmBros, Inc. John R. “Rick” Schooler, Orlando Health Barbara Larson Stuart, The Stuart Group Jane Tebbe-Shemelya, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Richard G. “Rick” Wack, Mediation Services of Central Florida, Inc. Richard C. “Rich” Wahl, Findsome & Winmore Bill L. Warren, Community Volunteer Michael Weinberg, HFF, L.P. Brian T. Wilson, Dellecker Wilson King McKenna Ruffier & Sos, LLP Mark Woodbury, Universal Parks & Resorts Erin Trabel Youngs, Walt Disney World Resort Aaron Zandy, Ford & Harrison LLP
s y a w l a n a c “You ” . p l e h o t y a find a w
Board Chair Trip Stephens (left) with Noah Hall-King and President/CEO Brent Trotter.
When Noah Hall-King was just four years old, he decided to use his birthday to raise money for the heroes at the Ocoee Fire Department. Since then, fundraising has become a yearly tradition. This year, for his eighth birthday, he chose to benefit the veterans at the Coalition. Noah’s mom Cheryl tells us, “Noah loves everything military. When he was four years old, he would always walk up to men in uniform and tell them, ‘Thank you.’ He seems to understand the commitment and dedication the veterans give and appreciates it. He heard somewhere about a veteran who had served, come home, and was homeless, and he felt this was unacceptable.”
“Once he toured the Coalition, he left realizing there are many other situations that can lead to being homeless, and that too bothered him,” says Cheryl. So, Noah went to work, fundraising over the course of several months. On Friday, June 24, Noah and his mom attended our Board Meeting to present the Coalition with a check for $2,700. “I know the Board said, ‘Mom is doing something right.’ I really need to set the record straight. Noah is the one teaching us. He has a very giving heart and loves to help others. He says you can always find a way to help.” We are so grateful to Noah, and we have no doubt that he’ll dedicate his life to helping others. What an amazing young man!
You can help! Whether donating their birthdays, holding supply drives, hosting a bike race, or starting a lemonade stand, our donors and volunteers (of all ages!) find the most creative ways to support the Coalition’s men, women, and children. If you’d like more information about donating your birthday or hosting an event, contact our Development Department at email@example.com or 407.426.1256.
e p o h f y o r s o t e s i s ’ r to ocky
Everything in Rocky’s life was falling into place. He was enrolled in school, pursuing a degree in psychology, and he was making enough money as a waiter to live comfortably. But, like so many people at the Coalition, one tragedy turned into a series of unfortunate events. Rocky suffers from Type 1 diabetes, a condition that began to give him more and more trouble, especially in his right leg. On Christmas Day in 2014, he fell gravely ill and was taken to the hospital. He says, “The doctors told me they didn’t know how I was still alive. They had to amputate the leg. The doctors told me it was that or nothing. They said, ‘If you leave this hospital with that leg, you’re not coming back.’” On December 26, his leg was amputated. 2
Recovering from surgery and unable to work, he could no longer afford his car. “One day, they came and they towed my beautiful Honda Accord. Then the owner of my apartment, my beautiful apartment, decided to raise the rent.” Though Rocky had lived there for eight years and never missed a payment, the landlord wouldn’t give him a break. “So, I stayed until the end of my lease, and then I lost my apartment. I’d lost my leg. I’d lost my car. I paid a couple of guys to pack up my whole apartment, because I couldn’t do anything. With my wounds, I couldn’t do too much. I wanted to take care of my leg.” Just like that, Rocky was homeless. “It was a very depressing moment. It was like watching my own life as a movie.” He spent one month at another area shelter before arriving at the Coalition’s Men’s Service Center (MSC),
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T R O P P U S YOURMATTERS!
where he met his case manager, Al McKinnon. “When I met Mr. Al for the first time, it was like he was my brother. He is a person you can count on. He is very honest. He’ll tell you when you’re wrong. I connected with him. To me, the Coalition is Mr. Al.”
Still, Rocky jumped head-first back into his studies and quickly finished his required classes. He proudly returned to the MSC to give Mr. Al an invitation to his graduation. With his new prosthetic leg, he was determined to walk at the ceremony.
“My two months at the MSC were very useful. I went to different classes. One was a financial class, like how to budget and how to save.” Between his monthly Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks and his newfound budgeting skills, Rocky could once again pursue his goals.
“When I went to get my diploma, they knew I wanted to get out of my wheelchair. I got out, and I fell back. I got up for a second time and started walking. Instead of me walking all the way down to them, they came to me.”
“When I came here, I wanted to put my things in order and organize myself. I went in a meeting room, and I started planning. The first thing I wanted to do was to get an apartment. I asked Mr. Al for help.” “I went to 20 different apartments. I had to go by bus in a manual wheelchair. Every time you make an application, you have to pay $35 or $50. You put in applications, and they aren’t approved.” But, finally, Rocky’s luck began to turn around, and he was approved for an apartment. “My second goal was to go back to school.” But getting back to his old life wasn’t easy, he confesses. “When you go to a university for four years, the people know you. I liked to dress in a suit, walking very strong, going, ‘This is Rocky Harrison!’ But when I went back to school, I was not the same Rocky Harrison. I went in my wheelchair. I went in a t-shirt. The professors didn’t know me. Most of the people I knew had graduated.”
“You know, when people see you trying to reach something, they will come. I want to tell people that if they have any problem – I don’t care what it is, alcohol, drugs, anything – if you want to get out from under that problem, you have to start walking. They will come to you. People have a tendency to help one another.” Rocky plans to spend the rest of his life helping others. “I’m still not finished,” he says. “I want to get my Masters in Clinical Psychology.” If history is any indication, nothing can stop him from achieving his goals.
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Petra & Michael Petra and Michael are like two teenagers in love. Though they were married on May 3, 1989, they are getting to know each other all over again, and their joy is apparent to anyone who meets them.
“I returned from Desert Storm and didn’t know I had PTSD,” Michael says. “Back then, it was a taboo thing. My officers and everybody appointed above me said, ‘Mike, just try to handle it. You’ll be okay. Don’t tell anyone. You’re going to mess up your military career.’” But, within six months, he was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and he ended up in jail – first in Georgia, then in Florida. With her husband in jail, Petra returned to her home state of Arizona, where her parents lived. She tells us, “My mom was dying of cancer. So, that’s when my drug addiction actually started.”
“While I was incarcerated, I didn’t know that she was on drugs until the very end,” Michael confesses. Originally, he was facing a minimum of 33 years in jail. “I have a college education, and I scored well on all the tests they give you, so I was in the law library. There’s where I wanted to be. I needed to work on my case.” As an honorably discharged veteran with PTSD, he was able to get his sentence reduced to 15 years. 4
While in prison, he says, “My life changed. I started to go to [Narcotics Anonymous] there. An older gentlemen, who was a Marine, took me under his wing.” Michael has now been sober for 17 years, and he is determined to maintain his sobriety and help his wife maintain hers. Petra, living with her own addiction, was diagnosed with breast cancer while Michael was still incarcerated. “When I found out I had breast cancer, it went in one ear and out the other, because my mother, my grandmother, my best friend…Everyone around me who dealt with cancer had died. I didn’t want to hear it. I put it out of my mind.” Michael says, “Originally, it was my plan that when I got out of jail I would go into a transitional program through the VA, and once I was settled, go and get my wife. But when I found out about the breast cancer and drug addiction, it became pressing that I got her here as soon as possible to get her some help and get her out of that environment.” “I was telling him, ‘I’m coming! I’m coming!’ But my addiction was saying, ‘You don’t want to go.’ He’d bought me a bus ticket, and on the last day I could use it, I knew I had to go,” Petra tells us. “For a long time, I never thought it was possible that I would ever see him again.” With Michael in a transitional program in St. Cloud, he searched for a place for Petra to stay. They were disappointed time and time again, until they found the Coalition. “We came here, and I got in, thank God.” “So, we got her moved in, and I’m going back to St. Cloud. Obviously, I want to be with my wife, and the trip can be close to four hours. A few days later, I came up and spoke to the intake lady at the Coalition. She said, ‘You’re a veteran. Being a veteran, you have priority. I can get you in right now.’” Michael is currently staying in the Men’s Service Center, working with his case manager and the VA to access benefits and secure housing. He says, “I was assigned to Miss Sonia as a case manager. Let me say this, we wouldn’t be at the point we are now if it wasn’t for her. She immediately started processing housing and SSVF [Supportive Services for Veteran Families], and every other outlet that I can possibly obtain. She’s assisted us greatly with the breast cancer issue and pushing things through.” Petra is living in the Center for Women and Families and is dedicated to maintaining her sobriety. “When I got on that Greyhound bus, I quit my drug of choice cold turkey. I was doing it for 15 years straight,” she says. “It wasn’t until I got here that I truly realized that I’m an addict. That was my daily life. I didn’t even know that I had a problem. I came here and talked to Connie [the intake coordinator], and she told me about the First Steps program. I knew this is where I need to be. This is what I need to do.”
Though Michael and Petra still have a long road ahead of them, they can finally see the light. “We’re finally back together. I mean, we got our relationship with our kids back. We got us back. Everything is coming together.” Your gifts help veterans like Michael overcome their challenges and return to lives of independence.
SCHOOL Each year, many of our amazing community partners come together to throw a Back 2 School Festival for our youngest clients, making sure they have fully stocked backpacks, new shoes, and fresh haircuts to begin the school year. This year, the Festival will be held on August 13. If you would like to donate supplies, please contact our Volunteer Department at 407.849.2757. We ask that items be dropped off by August 12.
THANK YOU! The Alliance (First Unitarian Church of Orlando) BBA Aviation Express Scripts Mall at Millenia Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Office Depot Foundation Paul Mitchell The School Whole Foods
GRANTS $75,000 Walt Disney World Resorts
$40,000 Universal Orlando Foundation $30,000 Orlando Sentinel Family Fund
Here’s a list of our most-needed items: • New sneakers for kids (ages 5 to 17) • Backpacks • Pencils • Black pens • Red pens • Scissors • Yellow highlighters • Spiral notebooks
$10,000 Darden Restaurants Foundation Holloway Family Foundation $5,000 Anonymous Foundation Bailes Family Foundation Harper Family Charitable Foundation TD Charitable Foundation
• Composition notebooks • Notebook paper • Pocket folders • 1-inch binders • Calculators • Dividers • Pencil boxes and pouches
$2,500 MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation $1,500 CNA Foundation $1,000 Insight Community Foundation Wells Fargo Foundation - Downtown Branch
639 WEST CENTRAL BOULEVARD, ORLANDO, FL 32801 | 407.426.1250 | CENTRALFLORIDAHOMELESS.ORG
Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida's August 2016 issue of CONNECT, featuring Petra and Michael's story.