Vanessa Howard of Tampa, Florida says she used to be broke, homeless and suicidal. She’s since turned her life around and is empowering other women to overcome difficult situations.
Twenty years ago, Howard had just $1.75 to her name and was the victim of domestic violence.
She said one day when she felt she had no where left to turn, she said a prayer.
“I cried out one day,” Howard told CBS News. “I was tired of being homeless, tired of being alone and prayed for help.”
That same day, she met a man who took a chance on her and gave her and her three daughters an affordable place to live.
“He was like, ‘I don’t know you, but I feel like you should have this place,'” Howard said. “It was from there that I found hope and restoration. I just wanted to pay it forward.”
In the years since, Howard opened the Giving Hands Hair Salon, where part of the mission is to provide relief to women going through difficult times.
“Once a month, me and my five daughters and dedicated volunteers do a full makeover. We spend anywhere from six to eight hours,” said Howard.
The services are completely free. Howard told WFST their reactions are reward enough.
“A woman came to me one time. She walked through the door and sat in my chair to get her eyebrows done. She grabbed my hand and started crying before I could even start the service,” said Howard. “She said to me, ‘No one has ever called me beautiful before. I’m 62 and no one has ever said that to me. Thank you.”
Howard is now working to get kids ready to go back to school. She’s offering free services to homeless girls this month.
“We do their hair and their nails. We buy uniforms for them to go back to school. Socks, shoes, underwear even school supplies. We make sure that when they go back to school, they are confident and ready,” said Howard.