Homeless sisters want jobs to get back on feet
Women fell on hard times when economy tanked
9/20/2013, 6:05 a.m.
DeKALB COUNTY For 20 years, Cylinthia Fitchett was a dedicated social worker back home in New Jersey, helping clients escape the grip of poverty and homelessness.
Today at age 51, she and her younger sister, Camille Fitchett, are among DeKalb County’s homeless.
The two have been sleeping on the steps of the old Candler-McAfee Library building in Decatur since about early September.
Fitchett said they are at wits’ end.
“We have nowhere else to go,” she said.
On Sept. 16, the sisters’ few belongings were neatly stacked outside the building’s covered entrance.
It’s certainly not the way Fitchett envisioned her life unfolding when she graduated from William Paterson University in 1998 with a degree in psychology and dreams of making a difference.
She and her sister are among 6,664 homeless people in the city of Atlanta and in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
From her hometown of Hillside, N.J., near Newark, Fitchett was drawn to the Atlanta area’s more prosperous image in the wake of the 1996 Olympics.
After several visits to test the waters in the early 2000s, Fitchett landed a job as a receptionist at School Specialty Inc., a wholesale school supply company in Norcross, in 2005.
“That lasted for about six months until they eliminated my position,” she said.
Fitchett returned home briefly to take care of some family business before moving to DeKalb for good in 2006 – at about the same time the local economy began to head south.
“My sister and I sold our parents’ house in New Jersey and moved here that fall,” she said. “We were able to live on the house proceeds and my savings until I could get a job in social work.”
But it didn’t work out that way.
Unable to find employment in her field, Fitchett filled time doing volunteer work at the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center and served as a peer counselor at CareNet Pregnancy Center of Atlanta.
She continued to look a job – any job.
“I go to the library every day and use their computers,” she said. “I’ve sent in resume after resume and logged more interviews than I can remember. They tell me I’m overqualified.”
The younger Fitchett, who does not have a college degree, said they are looking for anything that will bring income. She found a job at an Atlanta customer service agency but was laid off during the economic recession.
From 2006 to 2009, the sisters lived in a rented condo in Stone Mountain, but when their funds dried up, they were evicted.
They put their furniture and other household property in storage, but they were later auctioned off for lack of payment.
Cylinthia Fitchett said they lived in her car for about nine months until it broke down.
“I had no money to get it fixed,” she said. “Friends and acquaintances let us stay with them here in DeKalb and out in Conyers from 2010 until this year, 2013. We’ve been on the streets off and on since the winter months and here outside the old library for about two weeks.”