By Mark Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Two African American businesswomen came together to help a Hispanic resident. Jose Miranda is a quadrapalegic, who has been without adequate healthcare with only one family member to care for him.
Michelle Wallace, president of Largo based DME & Supplies Team and Wanda Johnson CEO of Seniors and Youth Support Services, have become the tag team version of Florence Nightingale, the social reformer and statistician best known as the founder of modern nursing.
Miranda has been bedridden for more than two decades after he was diagnosed with a rare disease he contracted as an automotive mechanic.
Wallace met Miranda in 2010 when his life was about to hit rock bottom. Described as a proud man with a positive spirit, Wallace said he would never lament his circumstance and always kept his chin up. Miranda cherished his independence and never wanted to become a major inconvenience to his loved ones.
“He’s not going to ask his family for anything,” Wallace told the AFRO. “He feels like he would be a burden.”
He was living in the District and could no longer work and therefore could no longer pay his rent. Since he didn’t qualify for disability because of age requirements, Miranda struggled to make ends meet. Despite being incapcitated and unable to work, the system offered him no assistance. He lost his D.C. Medicaid and wasn’t able to pay for medical equipment and incontinence supplies necessary for his daily survival.
Wallace has been filling the gaps that social service can’t provide for Miranda. She has provided support from her company’s inventory and out of pocket to help when she could. For 10 years her company has adopted Miranda and given him everything from hydraulic safety lifts to shower benches to make things easier daily. Wallace even paid Simmons’ company $600 to cover the cost for a week of services, which allowed Miranda’s sister – and primary caregiver – an opportunity to take a vacation.
“That’s just the person I am,” Wallace said. “He’s in need and this is what I do. It tugs at my heart when I look at the invoices. I’ve been very blessed so I could never cutoff someone in need.”
But that’s what happened to Miranda in July 2019 when he was permanently displaced from his residence. He had been renting the basement in a house on Emerson Street in Northwest, D.C., but once it went into foreclosure Miranda was evicted.
Johnson’s 501c3 non-profit enterprise provides personal care assistance and non-medical companionship for indigent residents such as Miranda. However, unlike Wallace, she can’t afford to make financial and resource investments needed to assist him.
“I had to stop providing services because the money ran out,” Simmons said. “He doesn’t have any areas of relief. It’s sad and leaves anyone speechless watching him victimized by neglect from the system.”
Simmons and Wallace have collaborated on trying to raise funds to help ease Miranda’s fate. However, the outreach to small business owners in the community has fallen on deaf ears, which has left them frustrated and disappointed.
“There are many of my colleagues, who are doing better than me, who couldn’t find a way to help out and they know they could. That’s sad.”