Homeless sisters find temporary home, jobs
Ken Watts | 9/25/2013, 5:18 p.m.
Two sisters who were unemployed, homeless and living outside the old Scott Candler Branch library building on McAfee Road in Decatur a week ago have a place to stay today and an opportunity for work helping other homeless women.
Cylinthia Fitchett, 51, and Camille Fitchett, 43, received an outpouring of support from a civil rights group and others in the community after their story appeared in the Sept. 21 edition of CrossRoadsNews.
They’re living temporarily at Margarita Szechenyi’s two bedroom apartment in Alpharetta, no longer facing the prospect of cold fall and winter nights on the streets. And Cylithia is in line to become the first director of a living facility for homeless women, based on her experience as a social worker.
“Everything went just like really crazy and really fast!” said Cylinthia, still trying to absorb their sudden, dramatic change in fortune. “It’s a good thing. I’m almost beginning to feel normal again, like I can reclaim a normal life.”
A time for action
DeKalb SCLC president Nathan Knight said that he was reading the article at the McDonald’s at Candler an McAfee Roads on Sept. 20 when he realized that he was just steps away from where the Fitchett sisters were camped out.
“I immediately jumped up and went over to the library building where they were,” said Knight. “ I saw Cylinthia standing there and she recounted pretty much everything that was in the article. And after listening for a while I said ‘Let’s see if we can get you some living quarters. We can’t have you out here like this’.” Knight ruled out shelters saying they can sometimes be dangerous for women.
Knight said his first idea was to get the sisters a room at a nearby extended stay motel but they didn’t have a vacancy. He enlisted DeKalb NAACP president John Evans to check other motels in the area for emergency housing space. Knight brought up the Fitchetts’ situation the next day at an SCLC meeting at Hodges restaurant on Candler Road, about two blocks away from where the sisters were camped. After briefing SCLC Board Chairman Rev. Lionel Gantt and 9 attendees, Knight was growing impatient.
“I wanted to move the people toward action,” Knight said. “We ended our meeting and then I told them to follow me. It was not a pre-planned thing. We all walked across the street, reading the article as we went, until we arrived at the sisters’ encampment.”
Surprised and moved by what they saw, the SCLC members decided to find a solution that day, within their small circle of activists.
“There was no way we were going to leave those women out there.” said Gantt
“The members started crying and hugging each another and the sisters and said ‘let’s do something.’” said Knight recalling the emotional scene that rainy Saturday afternoon. “And one of the members, Margarita, spoke up and said she would provide the ladies with a place to stay.”
An SCLC member volunteered his van to move the sisters’ belongings to Alpharetta. Other members came along to help with them move in.