In 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the coast of South Carolina, forcing Shavon Smalls and her son to evacuate. Once the storm passed, they returned home to find their apartment had been broken into and vandalized. Because of the devastation to her community, there was nowhere else for her to go and she and her son were left homeless. They would spend the next two years moving around and staying with friends, all while her son battled sickle cell anemia, a disease he was born with.
“Sickle cell effects the blood system and it can be extremely painful,” Shavon explained. “My son often takes medication to help manage the disease, but we have to be really careful. Exposures to germs at school – even the flu or a common cold – can impact his body way worse than most children and he can end up in the hospital. The pandemic has been especially scary for us.”
While Shavon and her son were homeless, she remained positive and never lost hope that they would end up where they were supposed to be. “I kept telling my son that we were going to be OK and that we could do anything together,” she said. “There were plenty of times that I wanted to give up because my son is sick, and I knew I needed to provide a home for him. I had to try to be strong and keep reassuring him that everything would work out.”
In 2018, Shavon applied for an apartment at Cambridge Apartments in Summerville, SC, and a month later she was able to move in. Her new home would be close to the sickle cell clinic for her son, convenient to the grocery store and other shopping, and she would later land a job that was close to the apartment, too. “I love living at Cambridge. It feels so great to finally have a place to call home!”
CAHEC is proud to be able to share resident stories, just like Shavon’s, that showcase how affordable housing can positively impact families throughout our footprint. We selected her to be our Resident Spotlight Award recipient at the 2020 CAHEC Partners Conference, but after our conference was cancelled (in 2020 and now for 2021), we decided we couldn’t wait another year to honor her and share her amazing journey. Check out a short video of her story here. Shavon will be receiving an award from us via mail and we are so proud of all that she has accomplished!