'The Lord's Place' provides shelter to needy

Posted at 8:29 AM, Dec 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-25 18:18:19-05

For some of us, the holiday season is a chance to spend time with family. For others, it can be a painful reminder of the changes we need to make in our life.

But a local business owner is giving the homeless a little hope during the holidays.

Diedre Cunningham's living room is bursting with Christmas decorations.

Her apartment is actually temporary housing that “The Lord's Place” in West Palm Beach gives to homeless families. The program allows them to save money and get back on their feet.

"I remember the vision of what I thought homelessness was.  It's not what you think it is," Cunningham.

Over the course of 14 months, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and a benign brain tumor.

Unable to work and pay her rent, she and her teenage daughter found themselves without a place to live.

The number of homeless people looking for services typically increases around the holidays. But it's not just people sleeping on the street. It is single parents, victims of domestic abuse or people who lost their job.

Seventeen years ago, Cynthia Heathcoe, the current owner of Contemporary Living store in Palm Beach Gardens, says she took a look at her life and knew she needed to make a change.

"I was not in a good place in my life and was in an unhealthy environment," said Heathcoe.

She and her 4-month old son lived at the "Lord's Place" for several months until she could afford her own apartment.

She continues to give back to the organization that took her in when she needed it most.

"(When you are in that situation) you lose sight of who you are.  You don't feel like you're anyone. You have the basics, but there's nothing there that you can call your own," said Heathcoe.

The apartments provided by “The Lords Place” are furnished with the necessities, but Heathcoe is trying to make the homes a little cozier. She is collecting items, such as fabric hangers, bedding and kitchen appliances.

"These are things that make them feel human again," said Heathcoe.

She knows the feeling. The first item Heathcoe could call her own was a cabinet, which she bought from a garage sale.

"It was $20, which was a lot of money for me back then," said Heathcoe.

Her son Ryder was too young to remember being homeless.

"She's helped me realize that it's not all about receiving. What you give, you get back," he says.

Cunningham and her daughter spent last Christmas in a hotel eating takeout. Thanks to donations and “The Lord's Place," she says she has hope for the future.

"Everyone comes over and says, 'You have all your stuff out [decorations], well of course, because I can finally say this is my home. This is my home until I'm ready," said Cunningham.

Click here if you would like to donate to “The Lord’s Place.”