Back to School, Already?!

1470708096718We can hardly believe summer’s ending! Whether you’re preparing for your littlest one’s first day of kindergarten or sending your teens (or yourself!) off to college, getting ready for back to school time can take a big bite out of everyone’s budgets.

Over in Porterville last week, Jesse, who runs our teen club at the Porterville Family apartments, overheard some kids talking about how badly they needed haircuts before the start of school. They wanted to make a good first impression, like all kids! Jesse knew how important this sort of impression can be, especially for low-income kids from working poor families – a little thing like a great cut can be a huge boost to a kid’s confidence and help them kick off the year in the right direction. So Jesse made a few calls and found a salon nearby, Ashley’s Hair, that was glad to have these three kids in for free cuts. Jesse walked with the boys down to the salon and the boys walked out with fresh styles and huge smiles. Thanks to Maria Santizo, owner of the salon! If you’re in the area, check them out and say thanks for us!

There are so many other expenses that low-income families face: clothes, school supplies, tuition. The site Deal Crunch recently published their 2016 Back to School Guide chock full of resources for students, teachers, and families for free stuff, scholarships, and more. If you or someone you know is struggling with back to school expenses, check it out! And of course, if you’re a resident of a LifeSTEPS property and you need help, talk to your DSS or program coordinator on site! We want to help.

Residents Give Testimony About How LifeSTEPS Has Changed Their Lives

Verna and Sandra cropped

Recently, two of our residents, Sandra (from Copperstone) and Verna (from Vintage Woods), had the privilege and honor to speak at the State Capitol on behalf of affordable housing and how LifeSTEPS supportive services have made a positive impact on their lives. They spoke beautifully from their heart to the CDLAC committee and received a round of applause from everyone in the room!

Sandra, who said she fled the violence in Colombia 15 years ago so she and her husband could “give [their] children a better quality of life, a place where they feel safe and where they can make their dreams come true,” spoke about the scholarships LifeSTEPS has given her three children, the after-school program her two daughters have been involved in, and the emergency assistance we provided last year to help her fix a car so that she and her husband could continue working and providing for their family. In her speech to the committee, she said, “LifeSTEPS, thank you very much for giving our children the opportunities to prepare professionally and become better people for our society and thank you all for your service.”

Verna told the committee about the financial and emotional support we’ve given her, and also, how we’ve helped a lot of her friends in the community. She said, “If LifeSTEPS and the help they provide wasn’t here, I don’t know that I could have kept my affordable home. I am so appreciative of this help because I have found friends, companionship and a reason to live. I wish every senior could find a place like Vintage Woods, and have help from LifeSTEPS like I have received.”

Below you can read the full text of both speeches – they really say it better than we can!

Sandra Guzman: My name is Sandra Guzman, it is an honor for me to be here today and I want to thank Jim Phelps for inviting me to share my testimony with everyone here. I’m from Colombia, I have three wonderful children: Daniel, Alejandra and Michelle. I came to America with my husband and my son Daniel 15 years ago, wanting to leave the violence that exists in my country.

Our family goal has been to give our children a better quality of life, a place where they feel safe and where they can make their dreams come true. My family has lived in Copperstone Village for 5 years, and it has been a great experience to be part of this great community, where our lives have been changed incredibly, and where we feel that our goals and dreams are one step closer each and every day.

LifeSteps is part of our family, it has been our support to fulfill the dreams of our children: Thanks to this wonderful opportunity, my son, Daniel has received scholarships by LifeSteps and J.B. Brown Fund, that has helped him transfer from Community College to the Sacramento State. Currently he is studying Electrical Engineering, his dream of being engineer and to serve the community is getting closer thanks to LifeSteps. We are proud and very grateful for their support and generosity.

Our daughters Alejandra and Michelle have attended the After School program and last year they both received athletic scholarships from LifeSteps. This has helped them to have confidence in themselves, to be more social with others, to have fun, and to get better grades in school. Alejandra’s dream is to attend Harvard University, to study law and help lowincome people who do not speak English. Currently, she’s completing 8th grade and belongs to the Leadership program at her school. Michelle is the athlete of the family, she dreams of being a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer and her goal is to help people who are overweight. Currently, she’s completing 6th grade.

Last year, my family also received another aid from LifeSteps when we had an emergency with our car. The car was damaged and we did not have the economic resources to repair it. This was a very difficult for us because we only have one car and without it my husband could not have gone to work nor could have my daughters could have gone to school. We really felt very grateful for their support and generosity.

LifeSteps thank you very much for giving our children the opportunities to prepare professionally and become better people for our society and thank you all for your service. God bless you!

Verna Raphael: My name is Verna Raphael. I am 88 years old and I have lived at Vintage Woods in Fair Oaks for 6 years. I am so fortunate to have met up with LifeSTEPS. The second month of my residency at Vintage Woods was very difficult. I rely on my children to help financially, but both were out of work and I could not pay my rent.

LifeSTEPS stepped in and, with their financial assistance, enabled me to stay in my home, helped me to adjust my budget, and provided the emotional support I needed. Over the years I have also seen how LifeSTEPS has helped many of my friends and neighbors with assistance with medical expenses, hearing aids, dental needs, rental assistance, and other types of educational and emotional support.

Providing this help has enabled so many of us to not only stay in our homes when unexpected expenses came up, but also helped us to remain active in our community. This is so important because people who aren’t active tend to get depressed. They have also helped us resolve conflicts among ourselves when they arise, helping us to do the right thing.

As we are all in our golden years, we need help to cope with everyday activities. It is such a good feeling to know that help is available when we need it. If LifeSTEPS and the help they provide wasn’t here, I don’t know that I could have kept my affordable home. I am so appreciative of this help because I have found friends, companionship and a reason to live. I wish every senior could find a place like Vintage Woods, and have help from LifeSTEPS like I have received.

I pray that God will let them keep up the good work for all of our sakes. We need them!

Call to Action: Will You Help?

South Bay~Rivertown~2013-08-22~ID=2896~Summer Luau

Youth residents enjoying their courtyard.

California is facing its worst housing crisis in decades. Almost everyone is feeling the squeeze, but of course, without a safety net, our lowest-income residents are the most vulnerable. Right now, California has more homeless people than any other state – recent counts put the numbers at more than 115,000 homeless people in CA on any given night. That’s 21% of the entire nation’s homeless population, far outpacing any other state, right here in our backyards.

Back in February, Senator Holly Mitchell, whose district of Culver City and parts of LA has some of the highest proportions of homelessness in the state, introduced a bill to the state legislature to help. This bill, called SB1380, would do two things:

First, it would require California programs that provide housing / housing-related services to incorporate Housing First policies, that is, the idea that a homeless person or family’s core need is to get stable housing first, and then other needs will be dealt with.

Second, the bill would establish a council, the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council, to “oversee the implementation of the Housing First guidelines and regulations and, among other things, to identify resources, benefits, and services that can be accessed to prevent and end homelessness in California.”

We at LifeSTEPS have seen first-hand how transformative stable housing is, and it’s why we’ve made it the cornerstone of our mission. With support and strong case management, we know that formerly homeless people and families can succeed and thrive in independent apartments. That’s why we are part of the chorus of voices supporting SB1380, as part of Residents United Network (RUN), and we’d love your support!

SB1380 has passed through the Assembly and is now waiting for a hearing to get scheduled in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your support would go a long way to help! What can you do?

Download the support letter in (English) or (Spanish) and fax to the Chair of the CA Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chairwoman Lorena Gonzalez, at 916-319-2180

Please sign and fax the letter by August 5, or as soon as you can!  As RUN said in their recent newsletter, “It is possible that a hearing date will be set earlier than our due date, which means we may need to ramp up action faster.”