Displaced homemaker program in jeopardy

Program has helped 80,000 in Tampa over 40 yrs.
Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 17:15:37-04

"What led me to these doors is-- I was homeless," said Thelsuice Gonzalez.

Years of hard labor bouncing from job to job, left Theslsuice Gonzalez wheelchair bound with severe neuropathy. Four years ago, while unemployed and with a teenage daughter, she was looking for a way out of Indiana and heard about Tampa's Centre for Women from a friend.

"I was helped with my resume and they pointed me in the right direction for employment, with housing," said Gonzalez.

But just when Gonzalez got on the right track, she was hit with a diagnosis of breast cancer.  She came back to the Centre and enrolled in the Displaced Homemaker program.

"I didn't think I had anything to offer.  But coming to the Centre, with the workshops, the one-on-one mentoring, it helped me to embrace who I really am," she said.

Now. she's a published author, a certified life coach and motivational speaker.

"I was empowered to do more," Gonzalez said.

The Displaced Homemaker program has been around 40 years, first created by Hillsborough County's first female state legislator, Helen Gordon Davis.  She helped to establish a trust fund at the state level that's been keeping the program going ever since.

"We're adding to the economy.  We're helping women to find jobs that pay higher than minimum wage to chart a whole new life for themselves and their children," said Ann Madsen, Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, executive director.

But this year, in a fight to end funding for Enterprise Florida, the legislature tucked the Displaced Homemaker program into a tourism spending bill.  The governor vetoed the measure, which will now be back on the table in a special legislative session meeting this week.

"I don't take this away because this helps to get you out of the cycle isn't it?" said Gonzalez.f

The Centre's just hoping this program and the seven others like it in Florida can keep going to help others like Thelsuice climb out of poverty.

The Centre's put a video out on social media, along with an online petition, hoping to save its funding, before the special session ends.

The Centre for Women also notes its program is unique, and its services cannot easily be replicated by other services.  In addition to employment related programs, The Centre offers counseling and emotional support, and a whole host of other initiatives aimed at helping families become self-sufficient.