Jessica spent the majority of her childhood homeless, as her mother was an addict and her father was in prison. Instead of spending time with the wrong crowds, Jessica would go to her local Publix to feel safe. Even now, it is where she goes to ensure stability for herself and her future.
Jessica began her journey with Publix in 2010, where she started as a bakery clerk, then slowly began helping in several other departments.
After turning 21 and wanting to explore other opportunities, she gave her two weeks’ notice and moved on in her career. But in December of 2017, Jessica was lost and so stressed out with her then-current job that she began to have stress-induced seizures. She started thinking of ways to reduce her stress and begin her journey to a simpler life. Her first step: Going back to Publix, her safe space, and securing a job.
Finding mentors in her store manager, assistant store manager and customer service manager, Jessica experienced compassion for the first time in years. She knew as long as she worked hard and did her part, those people would be there to give her much needed guidance. Though she had few possessions at the time, she felt so blessed to have such amazing people on her side; to cheer her on, to give her constructive criticism and to remind her to just breathe.
When she found herself homeless again in April 2018, she went to her store manager and asked for help with shelter assistance. Coincidentally, our United Way was there that same week and was able to put her in contact with Branches, a partner of the United Way Center for Financial Stability.
“When I first met Jessica, I was heartbroken by her situation,” said United Way of Miami-Dade development officer, Yohani. “Having kids almost her age, this hit very close to home, and I knew I had to take immediate action.”
United Way’s Center for Financial Stability gave her the tools she needed to get back on a positive financial path. She was able to find and move into an apartment and was given the chance to pick up the pieces.
“Branches and the others that have worked on my case have been saviors,” she said. “Last week I moved into my apartment and with the team of people I have on my side at Publix and United Way, it is almost impossible to fail.”