Everything she owned weighed her down as she walked into BRIDGES at Riviera Beach.

Pushing a three-month-old baby in a stroller and balancing several sagging bags on her shoulders, Josephine had no job, no home and nowhere to turn.

Kicked out of her parents’ home in Miami, Josephine made the trek to Palm Beach County and heard about BRIDGES at Riviera Beach through Jay Ministries.

The staff brought her in and performed a standard navigation to determine what Josephine needed and what the best way to help was. It was then that the staff learned that both she and Baby Helene were homeless.

“Unless you have an addiction, there is a huge lack of emergency shelters in Palm Beach County. Especially for young mothers,” said Director of BRIDGES at Riviera Beach, Terri Ferguson. “Every month, we get someone in that situation. When we first started BRIDGES, we had a mother with six kids who was sleeping behind a school.”

BRIDGES staff immediately sprung into action and called Jay Ministries in the hopes of helping Josephine and Helene find shelter for the weekend. Mercifully, the pastor’s wife took both mother and child under her wing.

At BRIDGES, Josephine found a support system and would come in regularly while she was job-hunting. She became invested in the community there and found a sense of belonging.

“Josephine consistently attended and was consistently engaged,” Terri said. “All she had was that stroller and that one bag, but her baby was always immaculate when she came in. It really impressed me about her and she was determined to make sure her child had a better life.”

Six months after her arrival, a scholarship opened up and because of her investment, Josephine was the best candidate for the award – a fund set up by the Children’s Services Council and Family Center which covers full-time childcare up until the child reaches the age of 12.

“We encouraged Josephine and whenever we saw suitable job opportunities pop up, we’d let her know,” said Terri.

Today, Josephine and Baby Helene are in a much better place than when they first arrived at BRIDGES. The mother and daughter have been living an apartment owned by a parishioner at Jay Ministries and she has been working full-time while Helene goes to daycare.

BRIDGES is providing bus passes so she can travel to and from work, but Josephine is already saving for her own car so she and her daughter can be more independent.

When Josephine and Helene first came to BRIDGES at Riviera Beach, all they had were the clothes on their backs, the bags slumping on their shoulders and a rickety stroller. Now, the young family has a home and a pathway to a future, but more so than that – BRIDGES helped Josephine unearth her resiliency.

Read more stories from Community Partners’ Storytellers here.

(Story by Jaime Joshi, communications coordinator at Community Partners)