Back in 2019, life seemed to be on the ascent for Cindy Lindor. After beating a drug habit, overcoming homelessness and getting married, she had started a new life in Kansas, 1,800 miles from her hometown of Miami.
But then the phone rang. It was a police officer.
“He told me I had 24 hours to get my child,” she recalled. “Otherwise DCF would get involved.”
Her 7-year-old daughter, Anyhia, was living with a relative in Miami, but had been kicked out of the house. The girl attempted to cross a very busy intersection, which led to authorities, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, getting involved.
“After I got the call, I told my husband I had to come down to get my daughter,” she said. “He asked me to choose him or move.”
Lindor knew then what she had to do. She grabbed her 6-year-old daughter Johichelie and boarded the next flight to Miami, leaving her new life behind.
“It felt good to be home,” she said.
(This story first appeared in the Miami Herald.)
A year later, Lindor has again improved her life, taking parenting classes and attending therapy with her daughters. She signed up for a class to learn how to become a caretaker for the elderly. And she moved from a shelter into a Little Haiti apartment.
This holiday season, though, won’t be easy for the 27-year-old. She needs clothes for the kids — now 8 and 9 years old — and computers so they can excel in school.
“I just want my kids to grow up better than I did,” she explained.
The path to the present started in a neighborhood near Miami Northwestern Senior High School. Her family, she said, didn’t help much, and she doesn’t like to talk about them. Nevertheless, she was an honor-roll student in tenth grade and seemed to be doing fine until she started hanging around with a “Goth” crowd.
By her junior year, she was pregnant with Anyhia.
“You know when you’re in high school and you go with the wrong crowd,” she said. “I got pregnant with one of them and it changed my whole life. I was a year away from graduating, but I had to make a sacrifice for my kid.”
So she dropped out. About a month after giving birth to Anyhia, Lindor lost her mother to gallbladder cancer. Holding back tears, she remembers feeling as if her entire life was falling apart. She recalled her mom working two jobs — as a nurse at Jackson Hospital and a housekeeper on Fisher Island. The months following her mother’s death were some of the roughest of Lindor’s life.
In moments of grief, Lindor turned to drugs like Percocet and Molly. “They were like candy, you just pop it,” she said. Her behavior changed. “I was talking crazy with my aunt and she called an ambulance. They tied me up, knowing I had something in my system.”
She was taken to North Shore Hospital where she was poked with IV’s that felt hot to her as they penetrated her skin. Her family, with whom she was living, told her she was pulling her hair out and saying things, but she has no recollection of it.
Lindor was then taken to Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, which she referred to as “the crazy house.” Her aunt had to Baker Act her, she said, referring to a Florida law that allows families to petition to have someone held for psychiatric care if deemed necessary.
Afterward, her aunt decided that Lindor was not ready to return home. The hospital found a shelter for her to stay in while she was recovering. She was taken to Lotus House, a women’s shelter in Overtown. She spent six months there and credits that time for her recovery.
Through that experience, she was pregnant with Johichelie. She gave birth on April 16, 2012. After leaving the shelter, she said, she lived with her newborn’s father, but suffered domestic violence and left.
In the years that followed, Lindor worked to provide for herself and her children. She became pregnant with her son Matthew, who was born in spring 2015. His father, an immigrant from Cuba who was in the United States illegally, was taken into custody and deported. The result? She couldn’t make ends meet.
She decided to leave her girls with their fathers and to send her son to live with his grandmother in Canada. That was horribly difficult.
She turned to the Miami Rescue Mission, a nonprofit corporation that seeks to transform the lives of homeless men, women and children. Lindor stayed at the shelter for about a year.
But she couldn’t find a job, and friends who had moved to the tiny town of Garden State, Kansas, invited her there. So she picked up Johichelie from the girl’s father’s house and headed west while Anyhia stayed with her father in Miami.
That move, she said, opened the door for new experiences and new people. Lindor spent two years in Kansas, where she married a young man and worked at Tyson Fresh Meats.
That all came to an end for the young mother in July of 2019 when she received the call about her daughter in Miami. DCF took custody of the young girl, but thankfully Lindor was able to reunite with her daughter within a year.
Her son Matthew still lives in Canada with his grandmother. Lindor helps out by sending them money, clothing, diapers and other things.
Joyce Benjamin is Lindor’s case manager at the Miami Rescue Mission. “I think that her family really needed some encouragement and strength to know that people care,” she said.