West Palm Beach local is the voice of change in her community
For West Palm Beach resident Teawanna Teal, the thought of “home sweet home” often leaves a bitter taste. Behind closed doors, she lives in a sanctuary, but on the opposite side, she and her family are confronted with the harsh reality of Tamarind Avenue.
Habitat for Humanity gave Teal the keys to her new home on June 15, 2018. Six months prior, she had been building her home from the ground up.
“I put blood, sweat and tears into this new home. We carved names in this home. I started bleeding from a cut when building this house,” Teal said.
The Teal household is in the Historic Northwest Neighborhood of West Palm Beach. The area is infamous for daily criminal activity and negligent authorities.
Teal worries for the safety and health of her family every single day. With high concerns, her three young children aren’t even safe playing in their own front yard.
Social determinants, such as where someone lives, can affect heart health, according to the American Heart Association.
Chief of the Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk laboratory at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wiley says people who feel unsafe in their own neighborhood tend to partake in little physical activity.
“The feeling of being unsafe may cause you more stress and increase stress-related hormones," Powell-Wiley said. "Those stress hormones may then promote weight gain.
There's definite data to support a relationship between that feeling of safety and health markers like weight … and even blood pressure."
CEO of the Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County Bernie Godek believes new homes in the community will bring a positive change.
“Many of the properties that are donated to us are in what we would call maybe challenged areas or… economically depressed areas,” Godek said. “There’s much more ownership now in that community. Crime has moved out of that community as a result of what we’ve done in partnership with the City of West Palm Beach.”
Unfortunately, this change has not always been evident for Teal and her family. At times, she
would rather pack her belongings and leave.
“I’ve heard several times when I brought up that I wanted to move…even from my own family, ‘How [are] you just going to leave when you’re the voice of the people?’” Teal said.
Even though Teal is a strong voice within her community, she knows she cannot fight her battles alone. But seeking help from the City of West Palm Beach to solve the simplest of problems is a difficult task.
“You get tired of fighting and hearing the same thing. And [some of these issues] are so small…But it’s big,” Teal said. “It would make a major change in this neighborhood if y’all just start doing it.”
Teal acknowledges that authorities such as West Palm Beach Police Chief Frank Adderley are putting in efforts to make a change. Adderley admires Teal’s efforts as well.
“We are fortunate to have people like Teal because, in my eye, Teal is a true community leader. She’s actually at meetings, and she is discussing resources that need to come to the community to make change,” Adderley said. “When you look at open drug sales and street crimes, that is pretty much the driving force on violent crime in the city. I think we are going to make a big impact on that.”
The biggest change Teal wants to see is a community that is united; a community that allows for her children to have a childhood beyond the walls of their home.
By Rachida Harper