The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.
By Bob Wallace/American Red Cross
September 21, 2017, Estero Florida. Willie Joe Shotmiller is a bundle of energy, constantly in motion. Currently residing in the Red Cross managed shelter at the Estero Recreational Center, Willie Joe is not content to sit on his bunk and ponder his homeless situation. He has stepped forward and volunteered to help the Red Cross staff running the shelter in whatever way he can.
Willie Joe cleans bathrooms, mops floors, carries out the garbage and helps other residents gather and move their belongings as they transition out of the shelter. “I have a desire to be useful,” said Willie Joe. “We’ve all got to work together to make things better.”
One does not have to talk long with Willie Joe before learning that he was homeless before Hurricane Irma and does not have a place to go when the shelter closes. “I’d love to have a safe harbor.” says Willie Joe, “but I don’t want to go to one of those places with a lot of drug addicts.”
Willie Joe makes no excuses for his situation. “I used to party hearty,” he says as he shares that it was drinking that led to a brain injury when he was busted in the head during a bar fight. Prior to that, he held jobs as a restaurant cook. “I’ve also studied acting and danced to support my alcohol habit,” he said.
Willie Joe may have had a rough life and does not have a home where he looks forward to returning, but for now, he is making himself useful as the Red Cross cares for hundreds of people in the Estero shelter in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.