Reporting Michele Gillen
MIAMI (CBS4) – Bedecked in lights and love, it’s the standout home on the block. The joy radiating from one mother and child is so high wattage, so heartfelt, this holiday season you will find them dancing in the street.
It’s because they are not just home for the holidays.For the first time ever, they are in their own home for the holidays, with a Christmas tree they’ve dreamed of for years.
It’s a dramatic turn of events for Alma Santos and her 11-year-old son, Jaime who struggles with learning disabilities and ADHD but who’s brimming over with joy.
Just weeks ago they were homeless.
“I felt like the doors were slamming in my face. I kept climbing but I could not see the light. I was just overwhelming,” said Santos to CBS4’s Chief Investigator Michele Gillen.
For years Santos was a live in care taker of an elderly man. She and her son lived in a closet sized room but were grateful since it was roof over their heads. After the elderly man got sick, Santos and her son ultimately ended up with no place to live and no job to be found.
“I was scared, I was crying,” said Santos.
At that time, her greatest fear was losing her son if she was not able to provide for him.
Santos reached out to Jaime’s school, one friend called another and then another, leading her to the Chapman Partnership Homeless shelter.
From there it was as if Santa arrived with news. The Homeless Trust and the non-profit housing program, Carrfour, found them a house to call home. A first ever bedroom for Jaime.
“He cried,” said Santos with tears of joy.
It’s a blessing for one family but there are still record numbers of those who remain homeless, searching for their miracle. Alissa Haddly of the unique housing haven Verde Gardens tries to facilitate this same miracle for them.
“It’s a major crisis. Just as if we were to have a disaster, this is a state of emergency. Honestly it is,” said Haddly.
With widespread layoffs, she says the faces of those in need are more recognizable than ever.
“We do have compassion because I always say, you never know, it can happen to you as well,” said Haddly.
With a home in place for Santos, work has followed.
“They have a farmers market. I have a job one day a week. I’m going in the right direction .Up and up I am seeing the light and want to give back,” says Santos.
This holiday season, if you can’t spot a twinkle in Santa’s eye, you won’t miss one in Alma’s or Jaime’s. Their blessings are too big to wrap, but not too big to share.
“Thank you with all my heart. What can I do to give back? Thank you so much. Thank you,” said Santos.
A season where being merry, in the Santos home, is only topped by gratitude.