Help The Homeless | Favela Miami

My Story

Losing my home 4 times was challenging –

but having to ignore a hungry homeless man
made me wanna change the world

It‘s 1999, and I‘m going through the motions almost any real estate agent would know…
6 months of ZERO sales. 
People LOVING the homes…
But no one WANTS one.
At least not from me- / showed the houses, someone else got the sale. 
I tried my best, but couldn‘t help but feeling lost, so lost….
And to add insult to injury, in that moment an old memory came up, one of the worst I ever had…

“A sudden, hard, and aggressive pull on my arm…”


I‘m 5 years old and I‘m seeing a homeless man for the first time in my life.


He‘s holding his hands up, begging for food, but everyone is ignoring him like he didn‘t exist.


Why would nobody help him? Was nobody noticing him?


I‘m trying to go to him, but suddenly feel a hard and aggressive pull on my arm.


My grandmother is trying to pull me away from the man but I don‘t understand. Why?


He didn‘t hurt anyone, he‘s just hungry, go help him!


My thoughts become words, my words get louder and before she knows it, I‘m throwing a full-blown tantrum for the poor man.


I had no other way to help him than to try and get people to notice him…


My grandmother is embarrassed and drags me away…


And that showed me: People like my grandmother DID notice the poor man.


The CHOSE to ignore him.


I didn‘t speak to her for a full week- to me she was a MONSTER.

Later I got to see the opposite- my father had a little business selling rotisserie chicken, and every night he would give whatever chicken was leftover to the homeless and the hungry.


He was my hero, he showed me that there are always ways to do what‘s right – even if no one else cared.

The event back then didn‘t leave me alone. I wanted to know what was going on with the homeless, why were they homeless in the first place?


I have to admit I was quite ignorant and at first thought it was a disease, but that didn‘t stop me from trying to talk to them, understanding them and seeing them as PEOPLE.


I‘d have to lie if I said this wasn‘t dangerous at all, doe-eyed me trying to solve a huge problem by herself, walking in the wrong neighbourhoods…


But still, something in me, that one man being treated like he didn‘t exist pushed me to do more, UNTIL:



I’m 15 and my mother‘s new boyfriend didn‘t want me to go out to meet my friends.


I didn‘t take him seriously, I left anyway…


A little later that day, my sisters find me and give me some schoolbooks…


“Mom said you can have them so you can at least study, now that you‘re kicked out.“


Kicked out?


I actually just lost my home. It felt bizarre.


Mom was willing to throw her own daughter out for … a guy.

Luckily, my aunt was kind enough to give me a room to stay in- and home is where family comes together, isn‘t it?
Family, yes.
I‘m 19 now and my aunt‘s boyfriend is doing something less than legal…
I find him out and he knows…
Suddenly, he proposes to my aunt, and suggests kicking me out because a couple to be married needs time for themselves, right? Planning a family, right?
There I am, homeless again, just for KNOWING about someone doing something wrong. 
Somehow justice always leads me back to the streets, huh? 
Where would I stay now? 

I mustered all my courage and…


He said I couldn‘t come to live with him in Venezuela, for he wanted to go back to his family in Chile, so I should go there 1st.


In Chile, I could live with another aunt and my grandmother… I only met them once, when I was 4 years old.


So I went there to live in my new home, with family…


But it didn‘t feel like a home.


Not even like family.


It felt like a different universe.


The people cold and distant, nasty and mean.


Family was supposed to be warm, not… THIS.


I lived there for 9 months, feeling sad, and abandoned.

But finally, I‘m turning 20, and my hero, my father, made the impossible possible.
I could finally live with him in Venezuela.
I finally had a HOME again, living with warm, loving people.
I finished going to college there and my “adventures“ with the homeless came to an abrupt end- because there were none I could talk to.
Time flies and I‘m 24 now.
I just graduated and felt excited to go to Europe. I planned to see Paris, but my friend invited me for a quick stop in Miami…

We partied like rockstars, had fun day and night- I have no idea how I survived that but my “coincidental stay“ got longer and longer…


Until I just applied for a working permit.


I got a boyfriend, and we married so I could get the green card, things were looking well.


I was building a life, a family…

And now I have a knife on my throat.

I‘m 26 now. My boyfriend, no, husband, and I weren‘t working out. We broke up and agreed to stay married legally as long as needed.


But the day I brought him the divorce papers, he snapped.


“If you’re not gonna be mine, you’re not gonna be anyone else‘s“


With everything I had I convinced him I‘d be his and found a reason to go out real quick.


Fearing for my life I lost my home AGAIN- this time out of my own volition, to survive.


I found a hotel, and I wasn‘t picky, for he emptied our bank account, but that place was INFESTED with cockroaches, I tried fumigating it but that didn‘t really help.


The only “company“ I had was a plant and a book my best friend had given me for my 26th birthday: “The power of positive thinking“


“Don‘t worry, we‘ll be here a lot less than we‘re thinking“ I‘m saying to my plant, half joking half convinced…

And I was right: My best friend came through for me…


She found a studio for me – the landlady wanted $1k for the rent and deposit which was WAY too much for after everything that happened…


But my best friend somehow negotiated $600/month in pay for deposit and rent.


Now I could finally live in peace again…


I became a Realtor for Majestic Properties, and I loved it…


Putting people in homes made me happy, it paid well and I lived without having to look at the price tag…


So what happened?

The little daydream came to an end and I was wondering how things suddenly turned so bad again.


I had a son now, his father is kicking me out of his place for he found a “new mate”, and if I couldn‘t make money, now My Baby is going to lose his home! and I was not gonna let that happen.


I tried business after business, tried selling what I could to generate some income…


I found different products I could sell for commission and sold them with all of my conviction…


Until one day a friend greeted me with:


“Hey, Val, what are you selling now?“


My sister recently also said: “I‘m keeping all your business cards, I got a nice collection by now“


Suddenly I realized the people in my life were losing respect for me.


I was losing my credibility.


I just tried making ends meet, but somehow, they were looking at me differently…


I needed to change something and stop this ASAP.


A kind friend hired me for his office so I could get back on my feet…


Later I got back into Real Estate, got some great referrals, and had time to work with the homeless again, finally.


My son became my biggest helper, I spent all my free time, WE spent all our free time helping the homeless, giving them a voice, and making people aware.


But then same same, but different – the leads dry up, no closes for months…


And for my birthday my best friend gives me a gift I‘d never have expected.

Favela Miami


She created a charity for me, putting a name and a place to my biggest dream…


And the city recognized it, and started paying me a salary so I can go to the streets and help the people who need it most.


That‘s where I‘ve been for the past 30 years, and where I am now.

Back then as a naive teenager I asked “Why do people become homeless, what kind of people are they?“


And life gave me an answer…


Losing your home because your family doesn‘t want you…


Losing your home because of crimes others commit…


Having a roof over your head but not a home so you‘d rather leave than stay…


Losing your home out of the fear for your life…


Losing your home because your partner found a new partner…


People wanting to help you but can‘t


People ignoring you


People not trusting you


People losing all respect for you


Until you become invisible in broad daylight.

They need help from kind people.


They need a job and a purpose.


I lived through all the motions…


And I‘m grateful for it no matter how hard it was.


Justice led me to the streets because this is where I can bring it to those who deserve it.


People didn’t WANT to buy homes from me – so I could focus on GIVING homes to people who NEEDS them.

And when I look back, to the little 5 year old Valerie, I hope she‘s happy.

We‘re not powerless in front of the homeless anymore.


Today, we feed them, clothe them, shelter them and give them jobs, make them PEOPLE again.


No one can force us to ignore the hungry man ever again.

And if you now want to be a part of this mission just like me, anything helps.


If you want to contribute with advice, some volunteering work, and if you have no time for that, a donation is a great help to, anything helps, so if you have something to give, let’s have a quick chat


Favela Miami


Community Ending Homelessness


Valerie Navarrete

Valerie Navarrete



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