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17-year-old Jeremiah Armstead and his family were once on the streets, living in their van and Los Angeles County’s 90-days shelters for women and children. With the help of his local community, today, he’s enrolled at Fisk University.
Jeremiah said the family’s bout with homelessness was a struggle at first. Yet in time, due to his outgoing personality and desire to make people around him smile, he formed a support network outside of his family, which was comprised of close friends and a coach with whom he could confide in and trust.
Financial hardships piled atop one another as the family dodged police in search of a peaceful night’s sleep.
The Brooks-Armstead family began the month figuring out their next steps after their time at Harbor Interfaith Services 90-day shelter for women and children was up. Without a place to sleep at night, the family of four were back to living in their van again. However, the stack of parking tickets — and with finances still too tight to even mention registering the van, it has only been an additional stressor for the entire family. The family had basically been driving around one police stop away from having their vehicle impounded.
Mindy, a domestic violence survivor, left her abuser, taking her three children with her. While there are numerous resources for domestic violence survivors, shelters providing housing for mothers with children have age restrictions.
“A lot of places for women with children don’t take big boys,” Mindy explained.
At 17, Jeremiah is 6’ft 4’’ while his 15-year-old and his younger brother, Marcus at over 6’ft in height would cause much of the world to treat the boys as grown adults rather than the teenagers they are.
At that time, he was on the varsity basketball team at Long Beach Polytechnic High School. “My mom would have to wait outside practice in the car all day,” Jeremiah said.
“Basically, school started, 8 in the morning to 5 at night,” the teen told LA’s Random Length News. “She’d be in the car all day, and then we still be in the car all night. There’s just stuff like that. It was just hard, you know. I didn’t want to just leave her out there by herself.”
Sisters of Watts’ Keisha Daniels made the call to the non-profit We Educate Brilliant Minds, which helps kids get into HBCUs — historically Black colleges and universities. Thanks to their organization’s Stephen Bernstein, Jeremiah was soon accepted to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
After learning of Jeremiah’s desire to go to college and major in sports medicine. It didn’t sit well with Daniels that a kid as bright and ambitious as Jeremiah wasn’t going straight to a four-year university.
According to their website, the vision of Sisters of Watts’ is to create a healthy, productive society where ignored, underprivileged, and underserved communities are equipped with knowledge, skills and resources that can enable them to become self-sufficient.
Jeremiah’s mom Mindy Brooks called their assistance “a divine intervention.”
It takes a village…
Jeremiah’s coach provided him with basketball shoes. The Do Good Daniels Family Foundation opened its shelter doors to the family as well. The non-profit A Time To Mentor assisted with a $1,000 scholarship. Grant money for Fisk University came in, but the Sisters of Watts are still trying to raise more than $15,000 for his education. They put out an all-call for donations, saying every dollar counts.
Jeremiah’s coach at Fisk will be former NBA player Kenny Anderson, a one-time Los Angeles Clipper.
If you would like to donate to help Send Jeremiah to Fisk University, you can donate to the Sisters of Watts or via Flipcause. You can also click here for more information on We Educate Brilliant Minds.
“I always felt as if I had to make people smile and stuff like that. So once like teachers or coaches started to know about what I was going through, they did everything in their power to help out. So it was just a blessing,” Jeremiah said.
Two weeks ago, Jeremiah received an acceptance letter from Fisk. Keisha and the Sisters of Watts have immediately set to work on helping Jeremiah make up for lost time in filling out financial aid paperwork and raise money to pay the balance of annual $35,000 a year tuition. With that said, there’s more work to be done, and Keisha says she could use all the help she can get.
Biden to address unhoused on a federal level
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced earlier this month that it will provide $2.8 billion in competitive funding to homeless services organizations across the country for supportive services and housing programs for people experiencing homelessness.
According to HUD, the funding opportunity reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to equity and evidence-based solutions to address homelessness and boost housing supply and lower costs by supporting local engagement to increase the supply of affordable housing.