Sweat dripped down her face as she gripped the steering wheel and braced herself for the inevitable. She watched nervously as a cop walked closer to her car. She tried keeping her anxiety in check, but she knew there was no way out of this. She was in serious trouble and there was nothing she could say to him that would save her. The moment of truth was upon her as she rolled down her window.
Her hands kept shaking, which was the last thing she wanted the cop to see. Shaky hands were a dead give-away. But she couldn’t stop any more than she could keep her heart from beating faster and faster. What’s worse, her brain was working at 1,000 miles a minute playing a different scenario. Would she end up in prison? She didn’t know how this would turn out. But she felt like she was in trouble and there was nothing she could do about it. Was this fate?
Ebony Rhodes had already experienced some of the most difficult months of her life. She relocated her entire family to Atlanta, Georgia, after her mom passed away. She’s a single mom with four kids, which meant she had to find a means of providing for her family right away. Fortunately, Atlanta had some great job offers. But Rhodes had to face facts. She kept a secret from everyone for the well-being of her kids, but the truth was about to come out.
Dealing with grief is awful, especially when you have to play it cool in front of your children. But sometimes, life can be cruel, and you get put through the wringer, which is something she knew all too well. But all she cared about at the moment was providing for her kids and finding a good job. Unfortunately, she had a past, and knew it would eventually come back to haunt her.
Rhodes was driving her kids to the library on one seemingly uneventful afternoon. She told them to study and do well in school, especially since finals were coming up. She knew that a good education would mean a great life for them. In fact, she thought about this on the drive there, which is why she failed to realize a patrol car had approached her. Then, she saw the flashing lights and heard the siren, and Rhodes knew she was in trouble.
She wanted her kids to have a better life than she did. She wanted them to become valuable members of society, so they wouldn’t have to worry about money either. But above all else she wanted them to be happy. What mother wouldn’t want that for her children? That’s why school was so important to her. But then she noticed that the patrol car was right behind her and realized at that very moment that her time was up.
Rhodes knew why the cop had pulled her over. Her tag was expired, but she didn’t have enough money to renew it. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was also driving with a suspended license without insurance. She was certain the cop would have some serious issues with these violations. But that wasn’t what terrified her. Her deep dark secret was about to be exposed. The thought of it made her start to cry.
She knew she should’ve dealt with these issues before they became traffic violations, but life was tough, and she had bigger things to worry about. However, she wasn’t ignorant of the fact that any one of these transgressions would be enough for a cop to pull her over. She knew she wouldn’t be able to get away with it, but there was something that scared her even more. In fact, it was so bad that she didn’t even want to think about it.
When the police officer approached her window, it was clear to her that she was crying. But she couldn’t understand why. “She came to the car and asked why was I crying and I was like, ‘…because I know my license isn’t good,'” Ebony said. And once the cop reviewed her situation, Rhodes’ worst fears were confirmed. The officer told her she would have to impound her car and arrest her. Rhodes panicked because she knew her secret would come out.
Rhodes knew she messed up badly, and there was nothing she could do about it now. Life had gotten in the way, and she wasn’t able to fix her situation. Now she was terrified of what could happen. Then, the cop confirmed her car would have to be impounded. But as awful as that was, it didn’t compare to the other thing that was about to come to light, and she wasn’t sure she’d be strong enough to handle the repercussions.
The cops took her and her four kids to the police station. Rhodes was allowed to call her co-worker to pick her kids up and to call her sister in Florida. She was the only other family member who could look after the kids while she was behind bars. But that meant her kids would have to move to Florida, and Rhodes couldn’t stand the thought of being separated from her kids. She had bigger issues to worry about. Once authorities searched her vehicle, she had to confess.
Being at the police station was nerve-wracking, but Rhodes had seen it coming for the longest time. She had always hoped that she would have enough time to fix things before they got worse. Now it was too late. It would devastate her if her kids moved to Florida, but she didn’t know how to stop it from happening. But she had bigger issues she had to deal with, and it was time to fess up. But was she ready for that?
Atlanta Police Department’s Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier was in his office when the cop who apprehended Rhodes came into his office. The officer explained that she and the other cops were doing a routine search of Rhodes’ car. And what they found had left them utterly shocked. It was such an unexpected discovery that Chief Glazier went to take a look for himself. Once he realized Rhodes’ situation, he said, “We have to do something about this.”
Empathy motivates us to be generous. It’s a normal human trait, but some people seem to have forgotten it. But folks like Chief Glazier don’t just want to feel sorry for someone in distress. They want to take action and help them before it’s too late. It’s why he knew he had to step in before things got more complicated for the woman and her kids. Life is full of hardships, but sometimes, it’s full of helping hands too.
Officers found tons of bags, backpacks, and miscellaneous items inside Rhodes’ 1997 Buick Regal. At first, the cops thought Rhodes was a hoarder. Then, the truth became clear. Rhodes and her kids were sleeping in their car. Horrified, Chief Glazier grabbed Rhodes’ cell to speak with her. That’s when she explained everything to him.
When they saw so many things piled up inside the car, they naturally assumed she had a cluttering problem. Maybe she was simply a messy person or perhaps she was a hoarder. But authorities were jumping to too many conclusions and didn’t have enough facts. They needed some context about Rhodes’ family situation. It was time for her to open up to them and tell them what was really going on.
Rhodes had been working several shifts at Walmart since she moved to Atlanta. Her pay was horrible. To make things worse, both she and her kids had health issues. This made it impossible for her to save enough money for an apartment. So, she and her family ended up homeless and living in their car for the past six months. As soon as Chief Glazier heard all of the details of Rhodes’ life, his tough exterior softened and his heart broke.
Living in a car isn’t easy. It’s only comfortable if you’re using it to get from one destination to the next. But when your car becomes your home, there’s barely any room. Now imagine an entire family living inside all crammed up. That was simply no way for the kids to be raised, and yet, they couldn’t get away from their situation. They needed help, and the officers couldn’t just stand by and do nothing while this family continued to suffer.
Every night, Rhodes would drive around from one place to another to find a safe place to park for the night. But it wasn’t easy. “A lot of times I didn’t sleep because the kids were asleep,” Rhodes explained. “I was watching to make sure nothing happened — no one tried to rob us… so we’d just stay right there in the car.” For a while, she managed to keep her situation a secret, but she was so ashamed.
Living in a car wasn’t easy. At times, Rhodes had to get creative. After all, you can’t just park your car anywhere you like. This resulted in countless sleepless nights for Rhodes, and it was really starting to take a toll on her. She knew if anyone found out about this, she could lose her kids. So, she kept the truth hidden. But she secretly hoped that something would change soon.
“When I got off work we would just sleep right there in the parking lot in my car,” Rhodes said. “A lot of people didn’t know that because I was still going to work.” But she knew this wasn’t good for her kids. “I apologized to my kids and let them know I’m sorry,” she added. But when that cop pulled her over and arrested her, she feared she would lose her home. It turns out, she was wrong.
Rhodes parked at her job’s parking lot every day. Co-workers and passersby probably never imagined that there was a woman and her children living inside that car. But when that cop arrested her, she knew that her life was about to change forever. She had prepared herself for the very worst, but she never believed things would change for the better.
Chief Glazier reached out to a woman he had recently met. She was the director of a family homeless shelter. “I called her up and said, ‘Listen I’ve got a family of five including three boys and a girl, and he’s 17,’” he shared. “And she goes, ‘Yeah, I have some room.’ And if you know anything about shelters in the middle of the winter, there’s nothing available and she had something available. I couldn’t believe it.” Rhodes was just as stunned as he was.
Chief Glazer refused to stand back and do nothing. He was a hands-on kind of guy. So, he called in every favor. He pulled every string. This is what he was good at. Then suddenly, he managed to place Rhodes and her kids in a shelter, which made everyone very happy. The family was finally going to have a clean bed to sleep in each night.
Chief Glazier gave Rhodes the awesome news. “When he called me that day I just started crying because I’d been trying to get into different shelters for a long time,” she explained. “No one would ever accept us.” Chief Glazier wasn’t done helping. He also set up a fundraising campaign within the police department, so Rhodes could rent an apartment. Eventually, the officers realized the funds weren’t enough, so they reached out to the community.
Rhodes was very touched by Chief Glazier’s efforts. Not only was she getting a lot of help from the cops, but it seemed like her life was finally starting to turn around. It was like a 180-degree turn, and it was all thanks to Chief Glazier and the rest of the community. With their help, Rhodes hoped that she would be able to finally come out of the dark and lead a normal life just like everyone else.
A GoFundMe page was set up by the Atlanta PD to help Rhodes. “My goal is to pay her rent, food, medicine, and transportation for a year so she can continue to work and save money without the stress of wondering if her family will be homeless again,” Chief Glazier wrote. Within a matter of days, they reached their initial goal of $15,000. So, they extended the goal to $75,000 to cover the family’s medical costs. They wound up raising $64,370. Now, Rhodes looks back on that day where the cop pulled her over with a different insight.
This money wouldn’t just help pay off a few past-due bills. It would change their entire lives. Perhaps, the kindness of the community and the police department would ensure that Rhodes and her kids would never have to sleep in their car ever again. But for now, there was something else that the family needed to reflect on.
“Atlanta Police Department is my backbone,” Rhodes said. “They helped me come a long way. The whole APD is my family because I can call on them for everything.” And she’s grateful she got pulled over that day. If she hadn’t been, things would have been different. “Had I not got pulled over that day, I’d probably still be in my car, just taking a risk every day. Losing that car and getting pulled over that day changed my life.”
Rhodes had endured hardship after hardship, but it was over. She managed to survive a horrible situation that most of us would have found difficult to handle. There were many days when she could have chosen to give up. But instead, she endured and her resilience paid off. She was finally back on track. Now her kids and herself have a new life and a bright new future.