Angel investors step forward to help secure one-year apartment rental.
Less than a month ago, the few items Shauna Smith owned would have fit into a shopping cart — if the police hadn’t taken away the cart she was using, and ticketed her.
What a difference 28 days and the generosity and empathy of a community has made. On Monday, June 22, the woman who spent the past eight years living on the streets of La Jolla was given keys to a studio apartment, filled with furnishings, dishes, bedding and everything she needs to start life anew — her rent prepaid for one year. She even has her own cell phone.
“I can’t believe it; I am so happy, you have no idea,” said the tall, athletic woman, whose cheerful demeanor and sartorial flair endeared her to many La Jollans, resulting in 107 donations to a GoFundMe campaign geared toward finding “Shelter for Shauna.” The campaign netted $11,645 and, in the past week, a sizeable donation from anonymous, husband-and-wife angel investors via their Water Walking Foundation (water-walking.org).
Seated on a white leather loveseat that her angel investors helped her pick out the previous afternoon at a Jerome’s furniture store, Shauna expressed her gratitude to the people of La Jolla. “I just want to say thank you to everyone here in La Jolla,” she said. “They did so much for me. People have so many obligations, especially in this community. They’re hardworking people, and sometimes we forget that.”
Jackie Blue (not her real name) with the Water Walking Foundation, said she and her husband first encountered Shauna in November when they came to the Village, where they escape winters. “I had seen Shauna walking around, as everybody has, and wondered what her story was and interacted with her a little bit, but nothing other than to just say hi. What really launched my husband and I to get involved with our foundation was when that story broke in the La Jolla Light — and the GoFundMe campaign.”
Blue said she and her husband reached out to Kirsten Harrison-Jack of La Jolla-based Soul Wise Coaching, the three-woman business team that started the campaign to get Shauna off the streets.
“We have truly been blessed by God, in a financial way and many other ways and we just want to bless other people,” Blue said, noting that Harrison-Jack filled out an application for funding through a Water Walking program called Hands and Feet, which offers financial and/or emotional and spiritual support for people facing a tragedy or difficult situation in their life.
Blue’s husband contacted several property management companies, finally connecting with Lou Capuano of Melroy Property Management, who had a studio available in the Village and was willing to overlook Shauna’s lack of credit or recent rental history — significant stumbling blocks for homeless individuals trying to find housing. The company also included part of her utilities with the rent.
Harrison-Jack said Shauna is “reveling in her newfound security and comfort.”
“The people of La Jolla need to realize that what they’ve done is nothing short of incredible,” she said. “They’ve acted honorably, respectfully, compassionately and lovingly and have set an example for others that it’s completely within the realm of possibility to extend a helping hand to one’s neighbor and literally change the trajectory of their lives.”
Harrison-Jack said she and Soul Wise colleagues Cecile Ward and Hillary Michels Dunning are working to help Shauna become self-sufficient by selling a jewelry line with positive affirmations, and possibly purses, and to create a Village walking club. They’re also seeking someone with a financial background to coach Shauna.
“She’s already taken a computer course to catch up for lost time,” Harrison-Jack said. “She is passionate about bringing more fun, positivity, tolerance and color to the Village on an ongoing basis.”