Edwena Bryant sat up straight in her chair with tears streaming down her face.

“Tears of joy,” she assured me.

Two years ago, Bryant was crying tears of sadness as she walked towards a Tampa bus stop. Her distress was apparent enough for Patricia Wingo to pull her car over and approach Bryant. It was the first step to ending Bryant’s life of homelessness.

“I wish there were more people like her in the world,” said Bryant. “I feel like I done hit the lottery.”

Wingo has that effect on people. Formerly homeless herself, she has worked at the Tampa Housing Authority for 20 years as an outreach case manager. She travels around those same neighborhoods she knows so well looking for people in need of a helping hand.

“They put you on the street?” she asked a woman and her nephew in an east Tampa park. The conversation led to Wingo handing the homeless duo bags of food and a pair of bus passes.

A few minutes later, she gave food to a man on a bicycle. She handed bus passes to a trio of men seeking shade under the picnic area in the same park.

“Will that help a little?” she asked.

Those simple conversations mean a lot, according to Bryant.

“I just told her my problems and we just went from there,” she said. “She’s just like everyday people.”

Wingo hopes her connections lead to more people finding shelter. The Tampa Housing Authority is hosting its 4th annual Race to End Homelessness event Saturday in Al Lopez Park.

You can sign up for the race here.