by Albert Pefley , 12 News
LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. (CBS 12) — Fatima Zellars put her life on the line for our country, serving in the U.S. Navy for six years.
After getting out of the Navy, she went through several tragedies and she found herself homeless, searching for food in trash cans. But that’s all in the past now after a home for homeless female veterans opened in Lake Worth Beach.
It is said to be the only home of its kind in South Florida.
“I feel like I’m blessed to wake up here,” Zellars said.
The 38-year-old served on three ships during her six years in the Navy. Zellars says she was stationed in San Diego and in Japan.
She even saw combat and was on board a U.S. naval ship that fired missiles in the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Zellars was a petty officer second class when she got out of the Navy in 2007.
After that, her life fell apart.
Zellars went through a divorce, the deaths of her two children, both of her parents passed away and she became homeless.
“I didn’t eat many days. I would not have the money for gas,” she said. “Showering, eating a good meal. I didn’t have that opportunity.”
Zellars says many nights she slept in her van and looked through trash cans at interstate rest stops for food. She panhandled to get money.
Now, she hopes those days are behind her.
Zellars recently moved into a home for homeless female veterans in Lake Worth Beach. She now has her own bedroom, a shower, food, and a roof over her head.
“I’ve been able to finally sleep and feel safe and relaxed and — begin to piece together my life again, which is what anyone would want,” she said.
Zellars is also learning how to live on a budget, prepare a resume and get some job interviewing skills.
“I wasn’t sure, you know, if I was gonna live in my van forever, but now that I have this opportunity, I’m like, OK finally a step in the right direction,” she said. “This is exactly what I needed.”
Operation 120, a nonprofit group, opened this home last December and two women now live here.
“We’re here to provide all the assistance that they need so they can contribute back to society,” said Elida Barrios, executive director of Operation 120.
The women will typically stay at the home for about 90 days.
Once she finishes here and has saved enough to get her own place to live, Zellars hopes to come back here from time to time to serve as a mentor for other homeless female vets who are trying to get back on their feet.
To learn more about the home for homeless female veterans in Lake Worth Beach, click here.