Who are the homeless? They are us.

ACSS Class 17 President Brandi Bell.

Meet Brandi Bell. Class President. Associates’ Degree. Pursuing bachelor’s degree at Georgia State. Florida cosmetology license. Mom to Kyle. Bright, enthusiastic, smart. And, homeless.

What? How can Brandi, with all of her special gifts and talents, be living in a shelter? Brandi’s story has been told countless times, especially in the brutal economy of the past four years. The difference is that Brandi entered the CareerWorks program at Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency a month ago and now she has a plan.

In her address to the 17th ACSS graduating class, Brandi thanked the staff and volunteers and congratulated her classmates. Her enduring remark merits some thought: “ACSS empowers our dreams.”

I talked to Brandi after the graduation reception and asked her about her Five Year Plan, one of the cornerstones of ACSS’s employment readiness program.

Brandi is a very focused and realistic woman. She knows that a dream is just an idea without a plan, and that long-term dreams get put on the back burner when the immediate priority is to find employment and affordable housing. So, her plan includes short-term actions (job, housing) and long-term goals (a bachelor’s degree in Marketing to work with a hair care line in Atlanta).

Brandi would love to work right now in customer service and I could see her in that role. She is upbeat, professional and friendly. And wouldn’t we all love to hear someone like that when we call with a customer service problem!

I asked Brandi what she would be doing on Monday. She had her whole week mapped out with meetings, interviews — and it will start all over again the week after, and the one after that, until she and Kyle have a home — because she is on the path to her dream.

ACSS provides support for Brandi and others like her who have graduated from the program. There is abundant evidence that followup prevents individuals from falling between the cracks and losing heart in this difficult job market.

All of us have needed a hand up some time in our lives. All of us have benefited from a mentor from time to time. These things have empowered our dreams and transformed them from ideas into reality. This is what has happened to Brandi Bell and her 26 classmates. This is what ACSS does every day.  

You can meet someone like Brandi Bell every day at ACSS. Attend a monthly graduation ceremony. Donate. Volunteer. There are so many ways to be a mentor and be that hand up in a person’s life.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking out for Brandi Bell somewhere in Atlanta, pursuing her dream. She is going places.

Written by Barbara Hughes. Barbara is an ACSS volunteer and serves on our Marketing & Communications Committee.

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Filed under ACSS Awards & Accomplishments, ACSS Programs, CareerWorks

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