Former Homeless Woman Strives to Help Her Community

After she received help during one of the hardest times in her life, she wanted to return the kindness shown to her when she was finally in a position to do so.
Andrew Thomas September 4, 2018

Living without a home is a tremendous struggle, especially with two young children to take care of. After an unexpected gift got one woman back on her feet, she was determined to pay it back—even if it took 10 years.

In 2006, Mary Fosheé and her two sons Bobby and Alexander were forced to leave their California home after it was determined that the property was below substandard living.

Bobby was only 5 years old, and Alexander was only 3.

Fosheé and her sons were homeless for nearly 10 months. All she had was a van.

She worked a part-time job at a supermarket, but she didn’t tell anyone she was homeless.

“I hid the fact that I was homeless from everybody. I was too prideful,” Fosheé told Humanity.

In 2007, Tracy Homes of the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin informed Fosheé that they had found a two-bedroom home for her. However, Foshée couldn’t afford the rent.

(Courtesy of Mary Fosheé)

All she had to her name was $100.

Soon after, she received another call from Tracy Homes asking her when she could come in to sign the paperwork and pick up the key.

Initially she was confused because she had told them that she couldn’t afford the rent.

Tracy Homes told Fosheé that a local agency had paid the security deposit and first month’s rent for the house.

“I was ecstatic. I was so happy. I was so excited, because I was able to say, ‘hey I got a home of my own,'” Fosheé recalled.

Because of confidentiality policies, Tracy Homes couldn’t tell her who had paid the deposit and first month’s rent.

But Fosheé did some research and found out that Sutter Healthy Connections, a local social services agency, had made the payments for her.

Fosheé was able to get beds for herself and her sons from a local charity. She was able to acquire other basic provisions such as food and clothing through Tracy Interfaith Ministries, a local food bank and clothing donation center.

(Courtesy of Mary Fosheé)

After receiving so much help and good fortune, Fosheé was immensely grateful. She had finally found a home. However, she would face significant adversity and family tragedy over the next 10 years.

When she was finally in a position to return the kindness that had been given to her 10 years earlier, Fosheé wanted to do something to help other people who were homeless.

She did some research, and discovered a program called Little Free Pantry. She found out there was a Little Free Pantry in Stockton, California, only a few miles north of the town where she lived.

She decided to check it out. Fosheé was immediately drawn to the concept.

Little Free Pantry started in May 2016. The program offers free food and other provisions from a public pantry.

The concept is that people take what they need, and leave what they can.

On August 17, 2017, Fosheé launched her own Little Free Pantry in her hometown of Tracy, California.

(Courtesy of Mary Fosheé)

She put a wicker basket shelf in front of her home with about five or six items.

Over the last nine months, Fosheé’s Little Free Pantry has grown.

“I accept everything from non-perishable food, hygiene [products], toiletries, household cleaning supplies, household products, clothing, jackets, sweaters, practically everything and anything,” she said.

Even if people are unable to leave anything, Fosheé encourages people to take what they need.

Fosheé believes her Little Free Pantry has been a success in her community.

The community has been supportive, and the homeless are appreciative of Foshée’s efforts.

Fosheé in front of her home. (Courtesy of Mary Fosheé)

“It’s been very successful. I never would have imagined in a million years that it was going to be as expanded as it is,” she said.

Fosheé takes a personal interest in the people she helps.

If Fosheé hasn’t seen a homeless patron of the pantry for some time, she will go find them to make sure they’re alright.

Not only is Fosheé’s pantry doing well, the concept has expanded to multiple cities and states.

(Courtesy of Mary Fosheé)

Fosheé is dedicated to the cause, and is ardent about helping those in need.

“If I can make a difference in one person’s life, whether it be a smile, a handshake, a hug, a prayer, a simple snack, a piece of clothing, or a non-perishable food or canned item from Little Free Pantry, then I’ve met my goal for the day,” Fosheé said.