Regaining Self-Sufficiency After Financial Hardship

Hard work and self-sufficiency has always been something that the Rivera* family prided themselves on. With both parents and the eldest of the family working full-time, their three incomes combined were enough to keep their family of six afloat. Although things like family trips, nice clothes, and big gifts were something that the family was accustomed to not having, Jim*, the head of the household, was thankful to have a healthy family and a place he could call home.

On one fateful afternoon, all of the stability the family worked so hard to maintain was suddenly changed. As Jim’s eldest son, James*, was on his way to work, he was side-swept by a speeding car, causing an accident that left him with a serious injury.  Apart from his car being totaled, James broke his leg in several different places.

With James unable to work, Jim and his wife took it upon themselves to take on more hours in order to make up for the lost income. As the months went on and with James still recovering, the once self-sufficient family began to fall behind on all of their bills and payments.

On one particular evening, as the family was coming back from running errands, Jim noticed a note hanging from their front door. With a sudden pit in his stomach, Jim opened up the piece of paper to see that it was a warning notice for eviction. Seeing the fear and panic come over his children’s faces, Jim knew that it was finally time to ask for help. His biggest fear in life was not being able to provide for his family, and with the possibility of losing their home, that dreaded fear was suddenly becoming a reality.

Panicked, Jim called his Director of Social Services, Audrey, to see if he could buy more time. Hearing of their dire circumstances, Audrey immediately sat with the couple to go over their finances and create a budgeting plan. Seeing the amount of back rent they owed and their struggle to stay afloat, Audrey also helped them fill out an application for rental assistance through LifeSTEPS.

With the relief from the financial aid and a moment to finally breathe, Jim and his family took this situation as an opportunity to figure out a plan to get back to self-sufficiency. Following Audrey’s advice, the couple began to attend classes on financial literacy where they learned new ways to budget and decrease their spending. They also found resources to temporarily help with food security until James was well enough to go back to work.

As the months went by, the family was also able to start a savings account by sticking to the plan Audrey had created. Jim’s new goal was to be financially prepared to handle any future emergencies that could lead to massive amounts of debt. With James on his way to full recovery, Jim and his family are finally on track to reaching full stability. “Thank you for helping us, LifeSTEPS. We need more people like you in this community. We are eternally grateful,” says Jim.

*names have been changed

Learning Important Life Lessons at the After School Program

Eight-year-old Megan* has been a LifeSTEPS resident almost all of her life. Although she comes from a very loving family, her home situation hasn’t always been the easiest. Before Megan* was born, her mother Diane*, was already a single parent. Prior to having Megan, Diane and her son were abandoned by her husband and eventually lost the only home they knew.

Diane and her son eventually found a new home at where things began to turn around. She had a full-time job, was able to provide for the two of them, and found support in her new community. What finally felt like stability took a sudden turn the moment Diane found out she was pregnant with twins. Without their father in the picture, Diane made a promise to herself that regardless of the situation she found herself in, she would do everything she could to provide for her children.

Although it has been a struggle raising three children on her own, Diane has kept her promise. Because of the long hours Diane has to work, Megan has always made it a point to look after her twin brother and help with whatever she could help with around the house. Attending the After School Program for the last three years, Megan has always been a shining example.

Because of her usual positive attitude, LifeSTEPS Program Coordinator Amena noticed Megan’s shift in mood. Instead of her normal bubbly self, she was quieter and distant. Concerned, Amena sat down with Megan to try and figure out what was going on. After feeling comfortable enough to open up, Megan spoke about her failing grades and the stress she had been feeling.

Never one to ask for help, Megan found it difficult to talk about her struggles since she was so used to being the nurturer. Upon hearing this, Amena made it a point to work with her one-on-one, focusing both on her school work and her coping skills. Amena also made it a point to emphasize the idea that despite the weight that Megan felt was on her shoulders, it was okay to be an eight-year-old and make mistakes.

Feeling inspired from her one-on-one sessions, Megan slowly found new ways to relax and lighten the load she was feeling. She also began asking for help when she knew she needed it. Over time, her grades also went up and the intense pressure she felt began to go away. With the help of Amena and LifeSTEPS, Megan is well on her way to being at the top of her class.

 

*names have been changed

Couple Finds Strength to Carry On

When Vik and Leah* arrived in the U.S. several years ago, they were looking forward to spending their retirement years close to their adult children. Spending most of their lives in India, they were excited to finally have their family back together in a country that they had always dreamed of living in. Once they arrived, they found a home in an affordable housing unit where they were able to work during their final years before retiring in order to save up money.

Although they did not have much, they were proud of their home and their new community. They made it a point to attend and participate in all of the socials and activities taking place at the property as well as attending classes provided by LifeSTEPS. They formed friendships with their new neighbors and always offered to volunteer for all of the community events taking place.

As great as life was, things took a drastic turn when Vik’s life was suddenly changed without warning. As Vik was going on about his day, he noticed a sudden numbness and weakness on the left side of his body. Thinking it was due to tiredness, Vik continued on with his day until the symptoms became so severe that he could not move his left arm and leg. Frightened, he called out to Leah who immediately dialed 911.

After sitting in the waiting room with her children for what felt like hours, the family was finally told by a doctor that Vik had suffered a stroke. His condition was so severe that the stroke left him partially paralyzed on one side of his body. As shocking and difficult as the news was, Leah remained strong for both Vik and her children.

As the weeks went by, Leah spent the majority of her day caring for Vik. Although her children helped as much as they could, the exhaustion and constant worry began to take a toll on Leah. Worried for both their health, Leah called her Director of Social Services, Yawo, hoping to explore different resources to help lighten the load.

Knowing the struggles that both Leah and Vik were dealing with, Yawo referred them to In Home Support Services. She knew that although Leah was strong and self-sufficient, she couldn’t care for Vik on her own. Helping them with their paperwork and guiding them through the process, Yawo made sure that she was there for them beyond the application process.

With everything being accepted and approved, Leah and Vik welcomed in a new home care worker that they both felt comfortable around. Because of the added help, Leah is now able to focus on other things around the house without constantly worrying about Vik. With the support of IHSS and LifeSTEPS, the couple continues to live the best life they could.

*names have been changed