When Yolanda arrived at Chapman Partnership, she came with nothing more than the clothes on her back and a plastic bag containing the last of her earthly possessions. Inside the bag were photos of her four daughters living in North Carolina, several worn paperback novels, some potted meat and a tattered purse. At just 34, she had fallen victim to the vicious cycle of drug addiction, depression and homelessness.
But Yolanda’s circumstances were not always so dire. At one time she was a working wife and mother with dreams of opening her own salon. But sometimes life can rain down a torrent of adversity and heartache.
2003 was the year Yolanda lost her job and her husband. It’s also the year that Yolanda lost a piece of herself. As an unemployed single mother facing what seemed like insurmountable odds, she stumbled into a dark, downward spiral of depression and addiction that resulted in her losing her apartment and the custody of her children.
After spending time living on the streets of Downtown Miami, Yolanda finally found her way to Chapman Partnership for Homeless.
Broken in spirit and struggling with severe depression, she was given shelter, clothes, food, crisis counseling and even medical attention. As her health and sense of hope began to be restored, Yolanda received job services counseling and began looking for fulltime employment.
Things were looking good for Yolanda. But there was still a small, nagging obstacle in her life. It was an obstacle that had affected her self-esteem for decades.
Yolanda’s front teeth were badly damaged from a childhood accident and over the years had suffered terrible decay. She was ashamed to smile in front of others. Caseworkers noticed that even when she spoke, she often held her hand in front of her mouth. This cosmetic problem also affected her self-confidence when she went to job interviews.
“My front teeth were all broken and I was embarrassed to open my mouth sometimes”, Yolanda says. “I couldn’t chew my food or talk right. I felt ugly.”
In the past, people at the very bottom of the economic ladder like Yolanda, would have to wait weeks or even months to get a dental appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Even then, the only option available was extraction.
However, in December 2005, all that changed. Chapman Partnership opened a state-of-the-art Mobile Dental Unit (MDU) to serve the oral health concerns of the 702 residents of their Homeless Assistance Centers. The MDU offered a fully equipped dental office with two operating areas, a sitting room and the latest in dental care technology operated by caring, experienced technicians and dentists.
Yolanda was one of the first patients.
“Her case was severe”, says the MDU’s Dr. Lawrence Margolis. “But then again, this was a woman who had never been to a dentist in her life”.
When Dr. Margolis finished his challenging work on the second visit, he proudly handed Yolanda a mirror. “Take a look at the new you!” he declared.
As she looked at the gorgeous white smile shining back at her from the handheld mirror, tears streamed down Yolanda’s face.
One more obstacle had been conquered.
Today, Yolanda’s outlook is extremely positive. In a week, she will start a new job. There is a marked difference in her attitude about the future. “It’s the beginning of a new life for me. I hope to be in my own place soon,” she says excitedly. “Good things are happening”.
And with that, a beautiful, confident smile creases Yolanda’s face.