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Client Story: Jann Bell

Jann is a survivor. Physical attacks, abuse, drownings, a house fire, car accidents, depression, homelessness – she’s survived them all.


In 2005, Jann’s world began falling apart. She was losing confidence in her ability to keep her family together.

Then one day, her husband threatened to take her daughter, Alyxis, and threatened to take Jann’s life.

The malicious wounding (“broken arm”) gave her husband three years in jail. While it robbed Jann of all she had possession-wise, it also gave her the opportunity to build a new life.

Jann and Alyxis stayed in their home as long as they could. Eventually the electricity was turned off. Next, the eviction notice arrived. The sight of their belongings on the street is an image she will never forget.

With school starting back, Jann went to the Salvation Army for help with supplies for Alyxis, but they knew they needed more than that. They helped Jann and Alyxis find safety and comfort at Savannah Suites for a short while. They felt like princesses.

Then, when a space opened at ForKids’ Haven House Emergency Shelter, Jann had to think long and hard. Asking for help – living under new rules – none of it seemed easy or appealing. But then, Jann remembered something her grandmother once said, “When you have a child, your life stops and the child’s life starts” and she made the choice. She would do it for Alyxis. She wanted to hear her laugh again.

In a month, Jann found a job as a bus driver with Norfolk Public Schools. Ten years later, she still has that job.

In a few years, Jann was awarded housing through Habitat for Humanity. She went from being homeless at ForKids to owning a home of her very own in Suffolk. Ten years later, she still calls it home.

At the time, Jann didn’t like all the chores and rules at ForKids but today, she is overwhelmed with gratitude. Jann once said that she felt like she came from ForKids’ University for Moms and that with ForKids’ help, she felt like Oprah with the world at her fingertips.

Jann has the world at her fingertips because she is the definition of perseverance.

Jann tirelessly works to do what’s right and has broken the cycle of homelessness for her and her family. For this and her remarkable tenacity and courage in overcoming great obstacles, we are proud to award her the 2015 Phoenix Outstanding Achievement Award.


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