Families grateful for Lighthouse Ministries on Thanksgiving -- and every day

It is easy to forget that, even in the hardest of times, we all have something to be thankful for.

"I am thankful for my family, and children being healthy and happy together," Jennifer Roberts, a mother of three little ones, told FOX 13.

A few weeks ago, Roberts was in dire straits. She was living with her kids in a storage unit in Brandon; a tiny one.

"Five by five, I believe," she recalled. "A closet."

With few alternatives, Roberts did what she had to do to survive.

"We had a microwave, so that’s how we ate," she said. "We would go to the store, buy refrigerated food. And cook it in the microwave."

After they ate, the microwave would be pushed to the side to make way for sardine-like sleeping.

She and the kids would leave during the day, so no one knew they were hiding out there.

"It is something that I could never have imagined or saw coming," she said.

But after a job loss and falling on hard times, it became her reality.

She has a new one now.

The kids have a real roof over their heads, a warm bed to sleep in, and their bellies are full. They just celebrated Thanksgiving at Lighthouse Ministries in Lakeland where they are living.

Along with short- and long-term programs for women and families, they operate an emergency shelter for men who are struggling with homelessness.

"I am just really grateful that we have our lives and everything that we need," she said.

As a participant in the women’s program, she’ll take a course in life and job skills, helps set up a savings plan, and get spiritual guidance. The program will also provide education and recreation for her kids.

"You really don’t know what you have," she added, "until you don’t have it anymore."