From Homeless to Hopeful: New Haven Organization Helps People Get Back on Their Feet

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In 2004, tragedy struck for Yezenia Lebrón.

“My son’s father passed away on April 7th, and I basically went into a big depression,” Lebrón recalled.

To cope, the young mother turned to drugs.

“I choose to self-medicate with illicit drugs, and of course, my son was taken away, housing gone, my cars gone, my jobs gone,” Lebrón said. “I lost everything.”

For two-and-a-half years, she found herself homeless and on the streets of New Haven, until the day she landed in a hospital. She thought of her son and realized she needed help

“He’s the reason why I keep moving forward,” Lebrón said. “He’s my motivation. He’s the reason why I decided to say, ‘Okay you know what, get it together. He needs his mom. Go get him.’”

And she did just that with the help of New Reach, a New Haven-based non-profit organization. They stepped in to help Lebrón find a home, food clothing and even furniture.

“We operate emergency shelters for women and children and single women and that provides 24/7 care for families who are experiencing homelessness,” explained Kellyann Day, the C.E.O. of New Reach.

In the past year, New Reach has helped more than 2,000 people, and their furniture co-op has furnished 158 homes.

“What’s really unique about The Furniture Co-Op is the fact that it is 100 percent privately funded, so we rely on corporations and individuals to donate the furniture to us that we give away,” Day said.

One of those corporations is Jordan’s Furniture.

“We donate furniture on a monthly basis to the organization,” Heather Copelas, the public relations and communications manager at Jordan’s Furniture, said. “They come to our store and pick it up and then they’re able to distribute it to different families and individuals in need throughout New Haven.”

Much of the furniture comes right off the store’s floor.

“We try to incorporate a myriad of different furniture because I know there’s a myriad of different needs,” Copelas explained.

New Reach is also the recipient of Jordan’s annual Coats for Kids coat drive.

“With this pick up today, I think we’re going to be up over 800 coats that we’re able to donate,” Copelas said.

“We are happy that we’re able to distribute those coats, not only to the families in the shelters and in the supportive housing programs, but to other nonprofits throughout greater New Haven who are working with people who need coats or can’t afford coats,” Day said.

Lebrón and her son William C.J. Pagan were two of those recipients. Today, the mom is back on her feet and is now using her experience to help others in need.

“I actually am working on a certification as an addiction counselor,” Lebrón explained.

She also volunteers for New Reach as a member of their alumni council.

“I’m proud of her though, really, really proud,” Pagan said. “She’s doing a good job.”

To learn more about New Reach or to donate, visit NewReach.org.

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