The “Orange is the New Black” actress, Jackie Cruz, aka “Flaca,” knows something about being homeless, and now that she has the opportunity to give back, she says, that’s exactly what she intends to do.

Born in New York City but raised in the Dominican Republic and Los Angeles, Cruz chose to leave her mother’s home when she was a teenager. When things didn’t go as planned with her roommate, the two ended up living in a Honda Civic.

But Cruz’s life went from bad to worse when at 17 she was in a horrifying car accident.

She says she was left half-bald and in a coma after having brain surgery. She returned to the Dominican Republic to recover, and it was there, she says, that her life changed.

Cruz met a little girl, a quadriplegic patient at her rehab center, who told her she was pretty, even without hair or covered in scars.

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“I figured out that it was never going to be about how I looked, but how I made someone feel,” Cruz told Fox News Latino.

Now living in Brooklyn, New York, and currently shooting the fifth season of Netflix’s original show, “Orange Is the New Black,” Cruz is now committed to giving back.

The actress and singer recently partnered with a local organization that outfits kids in need, Hoodies for the Homeless, which was founded by Tavis Eaton, the singer of the group Push Method.

“I have a voice now. 'OITNB' gives me that, and why not use it for good?” Cruz asks.

Fox News Latino got a chance to see Cruz in action at a Thanksgiving week event, surrounded by nearly 80 kids, where they got a chance to eat some pizza, listen to music and receive a much-appreciated hoodie.

“I feel like I’m one of them. I never had a dad, but I was raised by a big and extended family,” Cruz says. “I don’t say things happen for a reason, but if I hadn’t lived in a car or lived through the car accident, then I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today.” 

Rebekah Sager is a writer/editor for Fox News Latino. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager

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