Joanne Rossi just finished a promising job interview. Michelle Miller passed the state's certified nursing assistant exam last week. And Blu Jamison continues to impress her supervisors at MacDill Air Force Base.
These three women appear to be on the right track, so it's difficult to believe their path to success began with the despair of homelessness.
Not too long ago, they didn't know where they would sleep, what they would eat or how their children would survive. They had become the people they used to see on the "other side of the street," the people they just knew were choosing to be poor and had no real excuses.
With that realization came a chance to start anew. They gained entry into Metropolitan Ministries' Uplift U.
"They take people whose families and friends and society as a whole has given up on," said Rossi, 47.
Rossi was once married. She had a car, a management job and a teenage son destined for college. Divorce, layoffs and the death of her mother left her battling alcoholism and struggling to cope.
But she doesn't call herself a victim or make excuses.
"I didn't want to come here," Rossi said, "because it levels your pride out. But it's the best thing that ever happened to me."
Through Uplift U, Rossi has received 12 weeks of employment classes, a 140-hour job-training program and tons of life-skills counseling. Now she's working toward a degree from Brewster Technical Center as a behavioral health technician.
Rossi says the program gave her more than just training. "(They've) given me back my belief in myself," Rossi said. "The counselors and everybody saw something in me that I couldn't see."
Miller echoes Rossi's sentiments. Divorced with two young children, she came to Uplift U after bouts with cancer and heart disease. Her determination could not be dented. She graduated from her nursing assistant program with a 4.0 GPA and perfect attendance.
"God is in this facility, continuously giving," Miller said.
Jamison is where these ladies hope to go. She came to Uplift U after moving to Tampa from Texas and failing to make ends meet. In addition to the classes, Uplift U also offers programs for children. She says her kids are doing much better.
Jamison's daughter broke out of her shell after attending Speak Up, a teen version of Toastmasters. Now she hopes to attend the University of South Florida after graduating from Hillsborough High this year. Her son, who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy, has made tremendous progress and recently enrolled at Chamberlain High.
As for Jamison, 39, she continues to earn raves at her job with MacDill's janitorial services. "If you really want to change your life and never become homeless again, this program is life changing," Jamison said.
There are more residents at Uplift U looking to change their lives, and they need help.
Officials have a wish list that includes mentors for clients, plus-sized professional clothing, bus passes, gas cards, resume writing help and referrals to employers. Call (813) 209-1092 for information.
The cry of jobs, jobs, jobs is heard all around America. Metropolitan Ministries' Uplift U answers with meaningful results and a simple refrain: You are not alone.
That's all I'm saying.