Word has spread about the Work Your Way Home Program, and Homeless Outreach Worker Kelly Knight has become a well-known name on the streets of downtown San Diego.
In July alone, Knight has assisted 20 people in returning home to friends and family. As of July 26, Kelly and the Clean & Safe Program have helped 98 people return home to their support systems.
As various programs work to get homeless off the streets and into better living situations, we thank Kelly Knight for her dedication and consistent efforts toward ending homelessness.
Since February 2012, the WYWH program has helped 78 people return to support systems across the United States. Although every person’s story is different, the commonalities are homelessness and the realization that they needed to ask for help. Some of the people we’ve helped include survivors of domestic violence, pregnant women, seniors, young adults, as well as people with mental and physical disabilities. Other participants came to San Diego on the promise of a job or housing that never came to pass.
In June, the Work Your Way Home program helped six people return to family and support systems.
James Keane’s friend asked him to travel with him from Texas to California to help with the driving. They made a deal; in return for helping with the driving, the friend would buy James a ticket home once they got to California. James thought it was a great opportunity because he has friends in Northern California that he could visit.
When they arrived in San Diego James was surprised. The entire time, he thought they were going to Oakland. His friend told him not to worry and they booked a hotel for the night. James woke up the next morning and his friend was gone. James was stranded downtown San Diego.
James slept on 5th Avenue for a couple of weeks until he was contacted by the San Diego Police Department’s Gaslamp Walking Team. Officer Navarro referred James to Clean & Safe’s Outreach Coordinator Kelly Knight. Kelly and James worked on a plan to get him back to his family in Kileen, Texas. James boarded a bus home on Wednesday, Aug. 21 and is currently traveling.
Rejeana Sebek came to San Diego to reunite with the father of her
toddler sons, Sebastian and Noah. Rejeana was looking forward to her family being together again. The father of her children said he had a good job and was renting an apartment with enough room for all of them.
A few days after they moved in, however, the police raided the
apartment and took the father to jail on a felony arrest warrant from 2007. Rejeana was devastated; she had no idea he had a criminal past. Rejeana and her children had to leave the apartment by the end of the month.
Rejeana packed up her two boys and they relocated to downtown San Diego where they were now homeless. A stranger saw her crying by a trolley stop, and informed her of the Work Your Way Home program. Rejeana’s mother in Colorado Springs was willing to help her daughter and grandchildren get back on their feet. Rejeana and the boys went back to Colorado on Aug. 7.
Terissa Simmons has been homeless with her 4-year-old son, Ezekeil for more than a year. She came to California trying to build a new life, but she had no idea how high the cost of living is here.
They had been living at Cortez Hill Family Center, and Terissa was looking for employment when her cousin in Atlanta offered to help her get back on her feet.
Terissa and her son traveled to Atlanta in time for Ezekeil to enroll in kindergarten.
Joe Alan Evans
Joe has been wandering around the United States for 10 years. Joe stated his life has always been difficult, and he never understood his feelings of isolation. It wasn’t until he was adult that he was diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
Joe had been living with his sisters in Texas, when he woke one morning he walked out of the house and got on a bus to San Diego. He had no plan and about twenty-five dollars in his pocket.
After two months of sleeping at the old library, Joe met Outreach Worker Kelly Knight. Together they worked on a plan to get Joe back to his sisters in Texas. Joe’s sister was so happy to find out he was safe and that he wanted to return home.
Kelly recently checked in with Joe’s sister who said he made it safely back home.
On Tuesday, June 11, Outreach Worker Kelly Knight had a client in her office by 9:00 a.m. inquiring about the Work Your Way Home Program. While working with him on a plan to get home to his mother, Outreach Worker Knight had four more individuals walk into the Clean and Safe Office saying, “I’m here to talk with Kelly about the Work Your Way Home Program.” By 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, Kelly Knight was able to set up all five individuals with the Work Your Way Home Program. All five individuals left optimistic about a new start and all five support systems on the other end were excited about helping their loved ones get back on their feet.
The Work Your Way Home Program helped Eric Savage return to Boston in May. Eric had hitch hiked across the United States with the hopes he would find employment quickly in San Diego. Eric ran out of money soon after he arrived and found himself homeless and on the streets.
Eric has been home since May and called to check in with Outreach Worker Knight. He was excited to let her know he is working fulltime, looking for an apartment, and very happy to be back with his family.
Keith Burks came to San Diego with the mother of his child to live with her family. He stated that at first everything was fine, but after a few months without finding a job, things got tense. Keith was asked to leave, and with no friends or family in San Diego, he ended up on the street.
Keith spent the next couple of months sleeping by the train station and digging recyclables out of trash cans to make money for food. Keith told Outreach Worker Kelly Knight he was depressed and tired all the time. He had stopped looking for work and wanted to get back home to his family.
Kelly helped Keith get in touch with his sister in Detroit. Keith’s sister was happy he called and wanted to return home. Keith worked a shift with the Maintenance Ambassadors and was able to return home.
Kelly spoke to Keith recently; he made it home safely and he is enrolling in classes and looking for employment.
Willie Jackson returned to San Diego ten years ago for a job at the ship yards. He was working, had a nice place, a car, and as he put it, “everything you need”. Unfortunately, after five years, he was laid off.
Willie told Outreach Worker Knight that he spent the next five years on the streets and couch surfing at people’s houses. Over time, Willie felt like he was wearing out his welcome with his family and found himself sleeping on the street more and more. Unable to find work in San Diego, Willie contacted his brother in Gulf Port, Mississippi to see if he might have a better chance for a job. Willie’s brother invited him to come stay at his home until he could finalize employment and a place.
Willie worked a shift with Clean & Safe maintenance and left San Diego on May 5th. He called Outreach Worker Knight to let her know he had arrived safely.
Rosie Carter got on a bus in Florida running away from domestic violence. She had no plan, limited funds and didn’t know anyone in San Diego. Rosie was at the Rescue Mission for one night and realized she had made a horrible mistake coming to California. She told Outreach Worker Kelly Knight she was frightened and depressed. Physically disabled and mentally drained Rosie was reaching out for help.
Outreach Worker Knight helped Rosie get in contact with her sister in another part of Florida. Rosie’s sister was happy to hear from her and wanted her to come and stay with her for as long as she needed.
Rosie called to let Outreach Worker Knight know she had arrived safely and how grateful she was for the Work Your Way Home Program helping her get back home.
Kathy and Johnny Asberry
Two and a half years ago Kathy and Johnny Asberry left Memphis, Tennessee to care for his mother in San Diego. The couple took care of the house and saw to the needs of Johnny’s mother. Johnny worked odd jobs, but wasn’t able to find anything permanent. Kathy, who is physically disabled, contributed to the household using her SSI.
Due to family conflicts with a younger brother that moved into the home in August of 2012, Johnny and Kathy left the house and rented a room at a Single Room Occupancy Hotel. They had planned on paying rent weekly but ran out of money before the end of the first month.
After being homeless in East Village for two months, they entered the Alpha Project Winter Shelter Program. Shelter staff referred them to Clean and Safe Outreach Worker Kelly Knight. Together, they explored options to help end the couple’s homelessness.
Johnny and Kathy decided they would have a better life if they returned to Memphis. They had already saved enough for one ticket, so they discussed utilizing the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Work Your Way Home Program to fund the second. Outreach Worker Knight was able to connect with Kathy’s niece in Memphis who offered to house the couple until they got back on their feet.
After securing the support system for the couple’s return to Memphis, Outreach Worker Knight scheduled Johnny to work a shift with the Clean and Safe maintenance ambassadors and he did a great job in Core.
Johnny is the 63rd person to benefit from the Work Your Way Home Program since February 2012.
Update: Leroy Ward
Leroy had come to San Diego looking for work, ran out of money and was homeless when he met Outreach Worker Kelly Knight a few months ago.
Utilizing the referrals made by Outreach Worker Knight, Leroy was able to obtain shelter. Off the street with access to facilities for daily hygiene, Leroy started putting in applications for jobs. After a few short term, temporary positions, Leroy was able to find full-time, permanent work.
Congratulations, Leroy, on your new job!
Tyrone Whitfield & Christina Bell
Tyrone and Christina both lived in San Diego years ago. When Tyrone was unable to find work in Conway, Arkansas the couple decided to come to California. They quickly found out that Christina’s income was not enough and ended up on the street.
The couple attempted to access services, but relayed to Homeless Outreach Worker Kelly Knight that “there are more homeless people than services available here in San Diego”. They put their names on various lists for services and housing, but had a difficult time following up and making it to appointments without access to daily hygiene and transportation.
After seven months of sleeping next to the Salvation Army store, the couple knew they needed to make a change. Working with Outreach Worker Knight, they made a plan to return to Arkansas. Family members in Arkansas were willing to provide support for the couple to get back on their feet. Tyrone worked a shift with Clean and Safe maintenance and the couple returned home.