Born and raised in Miami, 26-year-old Jarrel Strong lived in nearby Overtown for most of his life. It was his connection to the area and the hardships he has experienced that compelled him to help the homeless.
“I saw the need for daily resources like food for those living on the streets,” says Jarrel. “There are so many people out here that are really struggling, and they have little to no help or resources.”
Since March, Jarrel and others have purchased and made two meal deliveries that fed about 300 men and women in three separate Overtown sections. The food disappeared very quickly.
“I was unemployed at the time, but with the roughly $50-$60 I had, I called up my family and friends with the idea to feed the homeless living on the streets,” he says. “I thought it’s the least I can do. I once lived in the same neighborhood – homeless and living in the city around there.”
His family and friends pitched in by purchasing waters and other items, donating money, masks or gloves or volunteering their time for the cause. The Miami-Dade Police Department donated gloves as well. Jarrel and the group provided a welcomed meal of spaghetti, green beans and dinner rolls wrapped up in to-go containers with utensils.
Rise Above the Circumstances
Passionate about social change, Jarrel grew up without a father, was evicted from every house he had ever lived in, slept in shelters and went without the things he needed.
“I’ve experienced these same situations,” says Jarrel. “Once I was above those circumstances, I felt it was my duty to turn back and help those in need as well. Someone helped me before. It was my inspiration and my opportunity to do so. It made me happy because my little help was going far, and it was a blessing to those at that moment.”
Jarrel had hoped to do something similar around Thanksgiving, but his bills piled up. He is planning another meal delivery donation some time in December – probably before Christmas.
Determined to Help Those in Need
Jarrel’s mother, Penny Jones, wanted to acknowledge her son’s big heart and work surrounding social justice and community activism. She nominated him for our “CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength” contest. We launched this contest to recognize four area residents who have gone above and beyond to help others with a $2,000 cash prize. Jarrel is the fourth and final winner.
“Since the pandemic began, Jarrel was determined to help those in need during this most difficult time,” Penny says. “With little money and a little faith, Jarrel safely fed over 300 homeless men and women in the city of Overtown. He believed that it was his duty to support those who simply could not support themselves. He took to the same streets he once lived. Jarrel knew what it felt like being homeless because he has endured those same situations. He is the agent and beacon of hope that his community truly deserves.”
“My mom encouraged me to do this,” he says. “I share my plans with her, and she pushes me to make sure I achieve whatever that goal is. I am thankful and grateful that she would consider me for this opportunity.”
Today, Jarrel dreams of attending law school. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and pre-law. Jarrel wants to pursue criminal defense law in order to help those inside the criminal justice system. He hopes to help defend and provide resources for those who cannot defend themselves.