Community groups rally around family facing homelessness and welcome them into fully furnished home
It’s move-in day for two teenagers and their family of seven facing homelessness. After more than two years living in a hotel with their three younger siblings and parents, Lovonte and Jordan Adams are looking forward to having their first real livable home today. It’s all thanks to the partnership of several organizations that have come together to rally around these brothers who for weeks have been working at Wake County's free COVID testing sites in some of our most at risk communities, where African Americans are dying from the virus at 1.7 times the rate of those who are white.
Lovonte and Jordan, ages 17 and 15, are Broughton High students who became part of a pilot STEM program, STEM Student Community Outreach, Opportunities and Innovation Project (CO-OiP), developed by Dr. Anita Jackson, North Carolina’s first African American Ear, Nose, & Throat surgeon. This COVID Community Outreach STEM experience takes high school students from the 27610 ZIP code (the ZIP code leading the entire state in COVID-19 cases) and trains them as COVID-19 testers. They earn money working at Wake County Public Health testing sites run by Vero Diagnostics, collecting COVID anterior nasal tests, sometimes six days a week. They also get to visit and experience the operations of the high-complexity labs to learn the science behind how samples are tested for various strains of the virus, which helps expand their knowledge and awareness of how the virus is spreading so quickly.
“You’re helping the community, you’re helping people, and I'm hoping people see what we're doing and come out and take COVID more seriously," said Jordan, who’s been working with his brother at the Wake County’s free, rotating, drive-thru testing sites aimed at helping stop the virus’s spread.
"Despite some personal struggles, the two students wowed everyone with their incredible energy and work ethic and their excitement to learn about the science behind this huge health threat to their community, said Diane Powell, founder of Justice Served, which serves at-risk youth. “Their eyes were opened to how many people are being impacted in their own backyard, and they're becoming influencers in their neighborhood and circles to try to help their community."
While the Adams brothers impressed everyone with their hard work, what no one realized was that they, their parents, and three younger brothers were facing homelessness. Both parents were furloughed, and Lavonte, Jordan, and their three younger brothers (ages 8, 5, and 4 months old) lived in a hotel. Being homeless in a hotel means that you have no bed, linens, cookware, or furniture to call your own. Learning this, Vero Diagnostics founders Ritesh Shah and Dipesh Shah (two close friends) decided to step up and gift this family of seven with a full year of rent in a house in the same area where the young men attend school.
“We just hope even more students get involved in the sciences and help their communities and would love students to come forward who would like to learn about how laboratory testing works,” said Titesh Shah, co-owner of Vero Diagnostics. “Hopefully we can inspire them to become scientists or medical and health experts in future and solve real world problems. And this first-hand experience can help inspire that. I hope more students come forward for our paid internship program.”
“Thanks to Wake County’s aggressive testing strategies and the willingness of their testing vendor Vero Diagnostics of Apex to pilot this innovative program, these two young men would not have had this incredible opportunity to give back to their community in an extremely helpful and productive way during the worst pandemic in history!” states Dr. Anita Jackson, who developed STEM Student CO-OiP through the Alliance for Innovative Solutions Foundation and is the Medical Director for Durham County Public Health. “It’s inspiring that we can all come together as a community to give back to kids improving their lives and finally bringing their family together to live together, thrive, and make a difference in their community. The kids that we train in STEM today will certainly lead us to a better tomorrow.”
The Adams family was overwhelmed by the news about a new home. The Green Chair Project is providing all the essential furnishings for their home, including everything from kitchen and bath goods, to furniture to beds (each child gets their own!) through their Sweeter Dreams bed program.
“I am most looking forward to all of us sitting down at a table as a family,” sad the boys’ mother, Amber. “It has been years since we have been able to do that.”
Donations of furniture from all over the community have helped equip the home to meet the needs of the whole family.
“This house would not feel like a home for the Adams family without the essential furnishings that Green Chair is providing,” said Jackie Craig, Executive Director of The Green Chair Project, which furnished the homes of more than 1200 families in 2020 who experienced the challenges of homelessness due to the pandemic. “We believe that lives change when families are nurtured and sustained in well-equipped homes."
Wake County Human Services Middle-Class Express will provide life-coaching to help the family develop their 5-year plan and empower them to reach their goals in finances, employment, healthy lifestyles, family, and community.
Additionally, Pinnacle Financial Group has agreed to set up bank accounts for the teens and match their earnings from working at the testing site up to $1,000 each.