Rising Like a Phoenix From the Ashes… Homelessness Can’t Derail These Success Stories

We’ve all heard major success stories.

A writer publishes book after book or an artist paints picture after picture with little acknowledgement. Then suddenly they become household names.

Or an athlete competes over and over again, always falling short of the goal. But then one day they strike gold.

The common thread to these success stories is perseverance. And the lesson is that if you keep trying and striving, something good will eventually happen.

Without a Home, Goals Seem Unreachable

Those types of stories are inspirational. But there’s something that pumps me up even more.

And that’s when people overcome significant disadvantages to reach their pinnacle of success.

In addition to physical, mental and emotional disabilities, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is homelessness. Trying to accomplish goals while living on the street or in a shelter is about as difficult as it gets.

Today I’d like us to look at three success stories involving people who achieved their goals despite being homeless.

From Homeless Vet to Business Partner

After retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Stefan DeArmond decided to move home to Charleston, South Carolina.

He wanted to support his ailing parents. But because he had little funds, his best option was to live in a shelter while trying to provide for his folks.

Stefan was steered toward One80 Place, a shelter that gives jobs to its residents. Because he already loved to cook, he decided to get involved with the shelter’s culinary training.

At the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Stefan volunteered to help a chef at Smoke, a local barbecue restaurant.

He did such a good job that the restaurant owner, Roland Feldman, gave him a job. Stefan fought his way up from dishwasher to food preparer. Not soon after, Feldman made him a business partner. And the Reverend Cornbread Company was born.

Giving Hope to Others

Having succeeded against all odds, Stefan could have turned his back on the shelter and the poor in his community. Instead, he made it his mission to give back.

After leading a baking class at the 2019 Charleston Wine + Food Festival, Stefan began teaching new students in One80 Place’s culinary program.

He now uses the Reverend Cornbread Co. food truck to distribute meals to homeless people several times each month.

“Without hope, you don’t have anything,” Stefan said. “One80 Place gave me hope and an avenue… to do something that I really love, which is cooking.”

From Homeless Mom to College Grad

Another incredible story comes from Nikishea Wright and her son. When he was 3 years old, they were homeless. They lived out of her car for several months in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Sleeping in her car overnight in church parking lots, she would take her son into a local McDonald’s to wash him in the morning.

“I was determined to get back on track,” Nikishea said. “I was determined to make a better life. And I wanted to never go back down that road again.”

Nikishea started studying nursing, but then decided she wanted to help people in a different way.

She Did It for Her Family

Her countless nights of studying finally resulted in recently getting a bachelor of science degree in public policy and administration.

“Those long nights when I stayed up studying for those exams, those nights when I cried, (my husband, Glynn) assured me that I would be OK, that I would get through it,” she said.

“I did it for my family, and I did it for all those women that think they can’t do it. They can.”

After pursuing and finally getting her diploma, is Nikishea ready to close the textbooks for a while? Nope. Her next goal is getting a master’s degree.

From Homeless Teen to Track Star

Now, the image that usually pops into our minds when we think of a homeless person is an adult. But sometimes it’s a child or teenager.

That was the case with Arkansas high school student Anya. One day she returned home from school, only to be locked out.

The family had lost their home. And Anya was left to take care of two siblings and a nephew.

By having a couple of jobs, she was able to get an apartment. Despite being employed and being the family’s provider, she continued going to school and track practice.

When the Going Gets Tough

“It just slaps you in the face,” Anya said. “Knowing that you’re an adult now. You can’t play around now. You can’t just slack off one day because it will hit you later.”

Anya could have run away from her problems. Instead, she ran track. In fact, she ran so fast that college recruiters started taking notice. Recently she accepted a track scholarship from the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.

The teenager says God and running enabled her to overcome her problems. And come out of it as a better person.

“I just look back and think, ‘This is who you are. You’re someone strong.’ Even though times get rough, you have to keep going.”

A Lesson for Us

We can all learn a lesson from Stefan, Nikishea and Anya. Regardless how bleak things appear to be, there is always a silver lining.

Perseverance is the key.

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