Sisters Brooke, Rainn, and Tai Sheppard live in a homeless shelter in Bushwick, Brooklyn with their mother, Tonia Handy, but they haven’t allowed their circumstances to keep them from making it into the Junior Olympics.
Early last year, Tonia and her girls were evicted from their apartment in Bedstuy for failing to pay the rent, landing them first in a motel shelter in Queens and then in the apartment shelter on a gritty block.
“The first time we got there, there was just roaches everywhere,” Tai, 11, told the Associated Press. “Every time I looked on the floor, a roach. And every time I looked on the ceiling there was a roach. It was horrible.”
Her sisters Brooke, 8, and Rainn, 10, have been top qualifiers in track and field and the sport has changed their lives.
The three girls got into track because their babysitter wanted to find an activity for them to do that didn’t require fees. They performed so well that each girl was recruited, separately, by Jean Bell, the founder of the Jeuness Track Club, which keeps its members prepared and focused on college scholarships. Bell had no idea at the time that all three girls were related.
The sisters continued to show promise until each had qualified for multiple events at the Junior Olympics. They will all be going to Houston, though unfortunately, their mother will not be joining them.
“I’m not going because the shelter has a curfew and I still have to work,” Handy explained. “It’s not that kind of job where you can take time off. You don’t go, you don’t get paid.”
The sisters set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the trip, and while their goal has been reached, you can still donate.