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Introducing Taeron “I always keep a smile” Odom of Turning Point

December 22, 2023

Nine-year-olds? They are vocal beings. They know what they want—for themselves and for others. And they’re not shy about telling you all about it. Especially if you’re their parent.

This is something Taeron “I always keep a smile” Odom, a single father to nine-year-old Nyechelle and participant in Way Finders’ Turning Point program, can attest to. 

“The first thing my daughter said was, ‘Oh, you got a car now. Now it’s time to get a job!’” said Odom, who purchased a Dodge Grand Caravan in April 2022.

And he did—thanks in part to the support he received from Manager of Supportive Housing Programs Carmen Navarro and her team at Turning Point, Way Finders’ permanent supportive housing program for young parents experiencing homelessness. And thanks to the Hall Foundation’s donation to the program of flexible funding, which helps parents meet a variety of everyday expenses—clothing, toiletries, groceries, cleaning supplies, kitchen tools—on their path forward.      

“I’m doing great. I just got out of work at the Amazon warehouse in Holyoke,” said Odom, who began working as a stower at the end of October 2023. “I pick up the packages and put them in bags, basically preparing the van for deliveries. I like doing it, being out there talking to different people, socializing and working. Having a purpose. That’s what I like.”

When Odom and his family moved in 2018 from Fall River to western Massachusetts, a part of the state he’d never been to before, it was to seek shelter through the Department of Transitional Assistance.

“We didn’t have any place to live, we were homeless,” said Odom, who became a dad at age 16. “We decided to move out here, with Way Finders. We were in a shelter program for a little bit, with my mom and my five siblings. Then Carmen offered me a chance to try something else, something new. To live on my own with my daughter at Turning Point. So I came, and it has been great.”

The overall goal of Turning Point is to help young families stay safe and healthy—and together. Parents are connected with social services and opportunities for growth, including education, counseling, health care, and parenting classes.

When invited to reflect a bit on his journey, Odom really latches on to this question: What might his life be like today if he hadn’t connected with Turning Point?

“I don’t know what my life would be! That’s a good question, I never thought about that. Probably still with my mom or at my girlfriend’s parents,” said Odom. “Without me moving here, I’d be lacking in a lot of things, for sure. I wouldn’t have bought my car as soon as I did. I would never know how to grocery shop within a budget, and still bring home a bunch of food! Living here just taught me to be a better person, a better father. I know so much more now, I can do so much more. I really have to stand up and speak up on my own and not be in my shell.”

While Odom enjoys his independence, knowing that there’s help just downstairs from the staff at Turning Point is a big plus. Especially when it comes to completing various paperwork.

“I try to live on my own without any help. But when I do need help, anything I ask, they’ll help with,” said Odom. “The staff are all friendly with me, everybody is there to speak with me. Carmen is great, she keeps me on my toes. She calls and checks to make sure I don’t forget things, she’s always on it.”

By using funding from the Hall Foundation to pay for such items as groceries, pots and pans, and clothes and school supplies for Nychelle, Odom was able to budget and save up over the course of a year for his car. He drove that car to Connecticut for an interview at Amazon, which he’d secured by using Indeed on his new Chromebook—another gift from the Hall Foundation. 

“Without them supporting me, I would’ve never gotten to where I am today,” said Odom, who continues to save toward a “rainy day fund,” such as for unexpected future car expenses.

With his car, Odom enjoys going out to eat with his daughter and navigating his new city. “Everything’s new for me, to this day. I’m still finding out things. I’m still learning things as I go. I’m still figuring out back streets and learning every different way.” 

As he eyes the future, it’s with hopes of securing a place to live with a bit more space, as he and his girlfriend are expecting a child in March 2024.

Way Finders thanks the Charles H. Hall Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, for supporting the young parents in the Turning Point Program.