MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A South Florida teenager who experienced homelessness has founded an outreach program to help homeless women in Miami-Dade get the personal hygiene items they need.
Elettlia Addison-Phelps delivers bags personally to homeless women in Miami-Dade.
The bags are filled with personal hygiene items that she’s collected as founder of “Beauty Beyond the Streets.”
On this day, she is working alongside Camillus House making her rounds seeking women in need and greeting them with a smile.
She approaches a woman on a sidewalk and says, “Hi I’m Ellie I’d like to give you a hygiene product bag that has pads, tampons, toilet paper tissue.”
The bubbly teenager once experienced homelessness herself back when she was in elementary school in Indiana, both Addison-Phelps and her mother stayed in a shelter.
The memories are vivid.
“It was very hard because kids used to pick on you for wearing the same clothes,” Addison-Phelps said. “I was bulled, and suffered mental self-esteem, physical self-esteem, and I had to go through counseling.”
About a year ago, she decided to take her experience and turn it into action, based on her belief that meeting basic hygiene needs makes a person feel better.
She’s delivering her bags to all she can, with a smile and warm greeting. Working her normal routes, she is almost always a welcome sight.
“Sometimes they know my car is coming and they’ll be so excited because they know I’m coming with a treat,” Addison-Phelps said.
She secures donations and brings along friends, all while mastering networking skills and building her hustle.
She’s expanding her reach with some help.
“I’m always looking for volunteers. My grandma does it, she takes some where she lives and when she has someone she gives it to them for me.”
The 17-year-old Carol City High student was recently awarded by the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, which has an annual essay and poster contest for students.
Ron Book chairs the Homeless Trust and honored Addison-Phelps for the essay category for students who have experienced homelessness.
Addison-Phelps aims to be a lawyer and businesswoman. She has a year of high school still to go, but seems wise beyond her years, sharing some sage advice.
“You got to always smile. My mom always told me ‘your face is your book cover.’ And also, treat homeless people with respect. Treat people how you want to be treated,” said Addison-Phelps.