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Homeless San Diego woman on a mission to pay it forward

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 21:35:25-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A homeless San Diego woman who received help from the community is on a mission to pay it forward.

Lekeita Smith fell on hard times nearly three years ago. Eventually, she was sleeping on the streets in Pacific Beach with her husband, who is disabled. Her children stayed with relatives.

"It was cold. It was really cold," Smith said, talking about living outdoors in December.

Her friend Amie Zamudio, a homeless advocate and works with a homeless service organization, had been trying to help her find a place to live at the time.

"What makes Lekeita special is her shine and her perseverance despite what she's going through," Amie said. She described Smith as someone who always had the right attitude.

Even though Smith lived on the streets, she continued to go to work with a positive outlook. She works full-time for a janitorial service.

"I've picked her up in the mornings when it's raining to take her to work when she's cold, and it's wet, and she hops in the car with a smile ready to go at 5:30 in the morning," Zamudio said.

In December, Zamudio created a GoFundMe page to help pay for Smith and her husband's hotel room. It raised about $12,800. It allowed them to stay at a hotel for three weeks until they eventually gained temporary lodging through the county.

"It felt like God gave me a second chance for a reason," Smith said. "I was grateful to be able to get into a hotel with him."

Now, Smith wants to help others the way she was. She and Zamudio started another GoFundMe to help raise money for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags. They've given out dozens of them so far.

"I felt like I needed to give back," Smith said. "I feel like I was just like them as well. And I felt like if someone can help me, I can help them."

On Feb. 8, someone donated Smith a car. The donor wants to remain anonymous. Now, Smith will no longer need to rely on rides or the bus to get to work. She says she will also use the car to deliver sleeping bags and tents to help others.

"I wanted to be an example to them that everything is going to be alright (and) let them know that just because we're out here doesn't mean we're not a person," Smith said.