Tish-Shaunna knew hardship from an early age.
“My Mom left the home when I was just 18 months old.”
Tish-Shaunna’s father brought another woman into the home who was abusive, causing Tish-Shaunna to act out at school and run away from home. The result was Tish-Shaunna spending a great deal of time at Orlando’s Juvenile Center. When Tish-Shaunna was in 6th grade her father was deported back to Jamaica, leaving her to be raised by an abusive step-mother. “Marijuana was never hidden from us. I started smoking marijuana at the age of 13.” Marijuana became an easy outlet for Tish-Shaunna having grown up with her father’s free spirited ideas about it. Just one day before Tish-Shaunna’s 15th birthday, she was kicked out of her home. With nowhere to go and no one to guide her, Tish-Shaunna turned to prostitution. “I didn’t have a childhood. I spent it in Juvenile Hall and on the streets. I slept on park benches and walked the streets at night.” By the age of 16, Tish-Shaunna was fully engulfed in the life of a prostitute. “I began selling crack cocaine in addition to prostituting. I did it for money to buy clothes, food, and just to live.” Around age 18, Tish-Shaunna’s mother came back into her life and brought her to Jacksonville.
Even with a fresh start in a new city, her life didn’t change.
“I began working at a strip club and got hooked back on cocaine and was introduced to ecstasy.”
Her lifestyle led her into abusive relationships. “I just was hopeless. I had no life. I was in a very dark place.” While living on the streets from crack house to crack house, Tish-Shaunna saw an old friend. “I used to get high with him at his house, but he was different now.” He told her about City Rescue Mission’s Life-Builders program and that he now worked at CRM. Tish-Shaunna carried that with her as she continued to live on the streets. “I was lying on the floor of a crack house one night, praying for something better. I remembered my old friend and I called CRM.”
When Tish-Shaunna arrived at CRM, at the age of 29, she was broken.
“I was physically, emotionally and mentally tired after all I had been through.”
Tish-Shaunna found it difficult to trust anyone. At CRM she was able to work through different issues in her life. “The grace I found at CRM helped me open up. I began listening to what they were telling me about God. I began reading the Bible and trying the different things that counselors were suggesting to help me because I knew what I had been doing wasn’t working. God began to open my heart and begin to trust.” For the first time, Tish-Shaunna experienced real love. “CRM let me know that it was okay that I was jacked up when I came in the door. I had all these issues and they let me know that Jesus still loves me and they loved me. Grace was demonstrated to me through the staff.”
CRM’s Acosta Learning Center played a large part in Tish-Shaunna’s transformation.
“Something inside me knew there was something better.”
Since Tish-Shaunna hadn’t been in school since 8th grade, the learning center was a great help to her. “Ms. Cook and the volunteers worked with me to develop the skills I had. Ms. Cook saw things in me that I couldn’t see in my-self. She gave me hope.” Tish-Shaunna is working toward earning her GED. She has passed the reading and writing portion and is preparing to complete the math and science portion, as she also prepares to graduate from the LifeBuilders program.
Tish-Shaunna has also found work at Rethreaded, a mission dedicated to love people affected by the sex trade.
“To come from the background I come from and be able to work at Rethreaded is amazing. They don’t care who I used to be and I feel respected in my work environment.”
After all that Tish-Shaunna has been through, she feels at peace with where God has placed her. “I know this mission can help people. It helped me. When I came in those doors I was an abused, neglected and abandoned child. Today I am a mature, loving and happy woman with a future and a hope.”