Homeless Person of the Year, A Dubious Distinction For Someone Changing Lives
It's a special distinction that few will have the opportunity to earn, but for one Gainesville woman winning a award for her service means coming full circle. This year's "Homeless Person of the Year" may not be an Oscar but it's an achievement that is touching many lives.
In 2005, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability said on any given day there are around eighty-three thousand homeless people in Florida. About 900 of them live here in Alachua County.
Cher McBride was among them. Four months ago she was homeless. At this year's third "Homeless Night Out," she was given the award for "Outstanding Achievement by a Homeless or Formerly Homeless Individual."
Explaining why she thinks she was awarded the honor, "I wasn't just holding out my hand saying give me give me,Â I was willing to work for it."
On her day off from work, McBride is the image of the perfect hostess, laying out a spread of cakes and sweet tea knowing that she'll have company.
But persistence could be McBride's middle name. It's what landed her her job at the Goodwill. Her supervisor, Malcolm Lemming was impressed by her insistence. "She kept coming here and bugging me and seeing me and said she'd love to work here," says Lemming.
The death of her mentally disabledÂ daughter last year began the downward spiral. When she returned to Gainesville last year, her car was her home --and it continued to be when she landed her job.
Her Florida Works case worker, Annette Kennedy, nominated her for the award. Kennedy says through divorce and financial hardship McBride has turned tragedy into triumph. "We thought that she overcame a lot of barriers being in a wheelchair and having a disability and being homeless on top of that," says Kennedy.
But McBride says she's there's more she's like to accomplish, though she has a bachelor's degree in education, she plans to go back to school. "I might not have my MSW, but I already feel like a social worker because I know how to help people I share my information my knowledge with them," says McBride.
Her car is gone now, and the two mile trek to work takes two hours --but what most would see as a burden for McBride is a blessing.
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