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Updated Jul 18, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Formerly homeless Tempe woman giving back to others in need

Volunteer Lupe Favela cuts the hair of Cynthia Melton at Valley of the Sun United Way Project Connect at Grace Community Church in Tempe, Ariz. on Thursday. (KTAR Photo/Mark Remillard)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A Tempe woman is focusing on giving back after being chronically homeless.

Chris Stromp was a seemingly normal student, studying interior design when recurring health problems changed her life. Without money to afford her bills, Stromp said she wound up living on the streets.

She continued to struggle with homelessness until she found Valley of the Sun United Way's Support Housing Pilot Program, which gives people such as Stromp affordable permanent housing.

"It's been a relief, it's almost like a dream come true," Stromp said.

Four years later, Stromp is still living in the supportive housing and taking advantages of many services offered by United Way to help people like her. Now, Stromp said she focuses on giving back to others in need.

On Thursday, Valley of the Sun United Way held a Project Connect Event at Grace Community Church at 1200 E. Southern Avenue in Tempe, which is a monthly event where homeless adults and families can come to use the United Way services.

Amy Schawbenlender, vice president of community impact for Valley of the Sun United Way said they offer people clothes, haircuts, job help and even government benefit services.

"They find out if they're eligible for SNAP, which is food stamps, receive their EBT card, learn how to activate their EBT card so they can go right from here to the grocery store so they can start purchasing food for their families," she said of the event.

Stromp is an active volunteer for Valley of the Sun United Way and said at Thursday's Project Connect that she tries to volunteer as often as she can.

"It's a very nice feeling, I love people (and) I can help them," she said. "Give them a kind smile, advice, show them the services here, I know what it's like and I feel like I can help them better because I've been through it."

The next Project Connect is Aug. 12 at Glendale Church of the Nazarene at 5902 W. Cactus Road in Glendale, Ariz.

Project Connect events are open to anyone in need and Schawbenlender said they often see hundreds of people seeking assistance. She also said they are almost always looking for volunteers at events.

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About the Author


A southern California native, Mark Remillard began working in radio in 2010 while in community college as a host of late night and weekend programming for publicly supported 88.5 FM KSBR. While working through college, Mark also interned for the Bill Handel Radio Program at Los Angeles' KFI AM640, where he began his work in journalism. Mark moved to Arizona in August 2012 to finish his bachelor's degree at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and graduated in August 2014. Mark began working as a reporter for KTAR in November 2012.

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