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Tue, Oct 26, 2021 at 4:19PM

Homeless in past, scientist in future

Losing her job as a server at upscale casual restaurant at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic appeared at first to be a big obstacle on the road out of homelessness for “Suzanne” and her then-infant daughter. But the detour, with some guidance from Family Renew Community, ended up leading her back onto the path toward her long-forgotten dream of becoming a meteorologist.

Because she and her daughter were staying at Family Renew’s Daytona Beach Residential Campus for single mothers experiencing homelessness with their children when the job loss occurred, Suzanne had options and opportunities.

They had come to Family Renew about nine months earlier, after Suzanne fled with the baby from the home she shared with an abusive partner. Though the tips at the restaurant were good, she had trouble finding a place with affordable monthly rent, and had little savings for deposits and other upfront costs. At Family Renew, with no rent or utilities to pay, she was able to save most of her earnings for a move to permanent housing. She was just about ready to make that move when the restaurant shut down its dining room and terminated the servers in March 2020.

With encouragement from Family Renew Daytona Beach Program Manager Laurie Archer-Dugo, Suzanne enrolled full time at Daytona State College. Now, at age 43, she is nearly finished with her associate degree and has applied for bachelor’s degree programs for meteorology — the career she would have pursued long ago if she’d had the chance.

“It’s something she’s always been interested in,” says Laurie. “She hadn’t been in school since she was 17 years old, but she’s got the bug. She won’t settle for less than an A.”

In July, Suzanne and her toddler moved into an apartment of their own, which she can afford because of a savings account that continued to grow with her pandemic relief benefits and a return to work, part-time. If all goes as planned, when she finishes her degree, her hand up from Family Renew will be complete. She’ll be supporting her family on the salary of a scientist.

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