Vanessa Howards looks like the picture of success. The beautician has a wonderful family and a salon she built from the ground up.
But it wasn’t always easy for the 62-year-old mom and small business owner. Just 20 years ago, Vanessa was homeless, suicidal, and had less than $2 to her name. She still had to care and provide for her three daughters, though. One day, she’d had enough of living on the streets, just barely making ends meet — and sometimes even failing at that.
When she got pregnant as a teen, Vanessa knew she had to leave her drug-riddled childhood home, but she didn’t have a plan of where to go next. The following years were wrought with hard nights on the streets, domestic violence and, at one point, suicidal thoughts.
Not giving up, though, Vanessa picked herself up and fought back. “I cried out one day,” she told CBS News. “I was tired of being homeless … and prayed for help.”
And help came.
The single mom hopped on a city bus with her three daughters and went to see an apartment. After multiple failed attempts at finding stable housing, she prayed that this landlord would give her the benefit of the doubt.
Vanessa recalls the man saying, “I don’t know you, but I feel like you should have this place.” That’s when she found renewed hope. “I just wanted to pay it forward.”
Vanessa kept that promise.
After moving in, she found steady work and years later was able to open her dream salon. She called it a fitting Giving Hands Beauty Salon.
Every month, the salon opens its doors to homeless, struggling women and children in the Tampa community. Vanessa and her team of volunteers do full makeovers from hair to nails and facials.
“I’m looking to help restore women. I’m looking to help restore children, because, again, that pain is a part of my purpose.”
With the school year fast approaching, though, Vanessa is focusing on little homeless girls who are nervous about how they look when classes begin. That’s why she’s arranged “Back to School Princess Parties,” which give 5-to-11-year-olds makeovers, school uniforms, and anything they need to feel ready for school.
Please share everyone!!! We also need more hairstylist because we added more little girls
So far, Vanessa estimates she’s helped nearly 300 women and children. She’s certainly paying it forward!
If you’d like to help Vanessa and her team lift homeless women and girls up, you can find out more information here. And be sure to share this incredible story of adversity and overcoming obstacles to make dreams realities.