Tyler Perry has overcome homelessness and now he's helping a family of junior Olympians to do the same by furnishing an apartment that he promised to pay two years' worth of rent for.
Last year the Sheppard sisters, Tai, 11, Rainn, 10, and Brooke, 9, made it to the AAU Junior Olympics where Tai and Rainn helped their relay team win the gold. Even though the girls are A and B students who scored the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids last year, the girls revealed during a segment on the ABC daytime talk show "The View" that they were homeless.
Perry saw the Sheppard sisters' story and heard their mother, Tonia Handy, speak about trying to make ends meet with a minimum wage job. Last November, he agreed to help the family get out of the shelter they were staying in by paying two years' worth of their rent.
Six months later, the family visited "The View" once again for an update on their lives. Handy expressed gratitude for the show and Perry for helping her to make a major change in her life.
"I knew that it was going to be a better life for us because it would give us a chance to save definitely," Handy said last week when sharing how Perry paying her rent has changed her life.
While Perry did not appear on the show, co-host Whoopi Goldberg revealed that he decided to also furnish her apartment last week after seeing that the family had no furniture other than air mattresses. The emotional family was left in tears, saying they were "so happy and so grateful" for Perry's contributions.
Perry's decision to help the family may come as no surprise to those who know that the movie mogul was once homeless. Last year, Perry received an honorary doctorate from Tuskegee University where he recalled some of his personal struggles to those in attendance.
He gave people some insight about his struggle becoming homeless, trying to make his dreams of launching a play come true in 1991.
"I had just moved to Atlanta to try to launch this play, so I went to work. I managed to save $12,000 and I put the show up working [with] used cars, as a bill collector (proceeds from a tax return)," Perry said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I thought 1,200 people would show up that weekend but only 30 showed up. My car payment, rent, everything was tied up in it so I ended up homeless with no money and nothing to my name."
For seven years the screenwriter and actor watched his plays fail, and almost gave up hope.
"From 1992, to 93, to 94, I was doing one show a year. I kept on doing the play," he said. "Every year it would fail, until 1998, the seventh year of me trying. I was about to give up and walk away."
Before giving up, audience members told Perry how much the messages in his play changed their lives. He began to see value in serving others.
"My life shifted after that," he said. "My intention became, how do I serve other people? How do I lift other people?