When asked to describe herself in one word, Ebony Smith replied “unapologetic” with a bright smile. As a highly driven and determined educator and mother of two beautiful children, Ebony is a prime example of what hard work, courage, and perseverance can accomplish. COTS recently sat down with Ebony to talk about her story and how the help she received changed her family’s life for the better.

COTS: What brought you to COTS?

Ebony: I’m originally from Flint, Michigan. I lost my mom when I was eleven and had my first child at sixteen, and my second child three years later. I didn’t have much support. My kids and I were kind of bouncing around from place to place without any real stability. I had hesitations about going to a shelter after having had the experience of going to a shelter with my mom when I was a child. I was worried about my kids. Finally, I swallowed my pride and went to COTS, and I’m so glad that I did.

COTS: That must have taken so much strength and courage. Will you us about what those first days and weeks were like at COTS?

Ebony: I was extremely overwhelmed. It was a very emotional time for me and having to follow new routines and guidelines was a big adjustment. I made a point to stay focused and work hard. I know sometimes it’s easy to get comfortable in a situation. I refused to do that.

COTS: What were some of the most beneficial resources you gained from COTS?

Ebony: Besides basic needs, the Women’s support group is amazing. I was so used to people who didn’t really care about what I was going through, or only asking to be nosy. It can be difficult to trust new people, and it can be uncomfortable sharing so much. Once I allowed these women in, it was completely different. They stood beside me, telling me “You can do this!”. They hold me accountable and the support they provide me with is incredible.

Photography by Ethel Rucker | Hart Eclectic Photography

COTS: What is your life like today?

Ebony: Totally different. I am a schoolteacher. I am working on building my credit and working on obtaining my cosmetology license and becoming state certified.

COTS: Sounds like you are making great progress. What are some goals you have for the future?

Ebony: Buying a home. Building my family and strengthening my relationships with my kids. Continuing my education.

COTS: What kind of advice do you have for families who find themselves facing homelessness?

Ebony: Don’t give up. Nothing happens overnight. Just keep going. Humble yourself and be willing to put in the work. It’s so worth it.