Johnnisha “JoJo” Willis – Using Life Lessons to Help Others

Johnnisha “JoJo” Willis is a supervisor at Yawkey House, Pine Street Inn’s shelter for women. JoJo is dedicated to helping homeless individuals, drawing on a deep well of empathy from having personally experienced homelessness.

Born in Boston, JoJo’s family moved to Florida when she was young. "I know what it feels like to be homeless," says JoJo. "When I was a child, my family and I stayed at a shelter for a while. Then I experienced homelessness a second time was when I was 15."

"I come from a large, single-parent family. I’m the oldest, and I felt that I was really independent and had something to prove," says JoJo. "I moved out on my own and ended up becoming homeless.”

Eventually, JoJo entered Job Corps, a career training and education program for young adults, and earned her nursing license. After moving back to Boston, she looked for an opportunity to help people experiencing homelessness and applied to Pine Street Inn.

Now at Yawkey House, JoJo channels her experiences into supporting Pine Street’s shelter guests. “I try to make the shelter a comfortable and caring environment for our guests,” says JoJo.

“There are people that I worked with who are now in a better place in their lives, either housed or working,” says JoJo. “It’s the best feeling to see that they’ve made it. If you’re homeless, it doesn’t mean your journey stops at the shelter. We’re here to help you move forward."