Three homeless sisters living with their mum in New York City, USA are headed to the Olympics Junior in Houston after they qualified for various track events in their training clubs. The three sisters, Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard live with their mum in a temporary homeless shelter in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Their mother, 46-year-old Tonia Handy, works as a phone operator at a car service and has been raising her family alone for the past decade – a very difficult living for the family. Life became even more difficult after the girls’ half-brother was murdered last year. It was then that she and the girls were evicted from their apartment in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section for failing to pay the rent.
They were left with no option than to find shelter a motel in Queens and afterwards, in an apartment shelter on a gritty Bed-Stuy street. According to Tai, it was a horrible experience the first time they got to the shelter at Bed-Stuy street. The place was so unsanitary and there were cockroaches here and there.
The three homeless sisters got into track last year with the help of their babysitter, who wanted to find them an activity that didn’t require any entry fees. The girls trained everyday and it only took a few practices before they were picked up by the Jeuness Track Club. The club’s founder, an administrative law judge named Jean Bell, recruited each girl without even knowing they were related. Fortunately, they are all in the top tier of age-group national rankings and all three earned a spot in the Junior Olympic Games, now underway in Houston.
Each of the three homeless sisters qualified for multiple events—Tai, 11, will run the 400 and the 800, as well as the 80-meter hurdles. Rain, 10, was the top qualifier for the 3,000 meters, crushing the next closest competitor by a full 30 seconds. Brooke, 8, will compete in the 800, the 1,500 and the high jump—despite the fact that her team lacks high jump equipment on which to practice. The sisters headed to Houston with their team on Sunday.
Tonia, their mum was not able to go with her daughters because she must have to stay back and work to keep up with her financial responsibilities. According to her, her job is not the type that may grant her a leave with pay. However, she says she will keep up with the activities of her stars via live stream.
Tonia expressed great confidence in her daughters, believing that this opportunity will help get them to college and as well open doors that she may not have been able to open for them. She had also set up a fund raising page – GoFundMe page to help get them to the games. Although the $3,000 needed has been met but she hopes more donations will still be of help to them.