Planning for a Brighter Future

Carla*, mother of two, hasn’t always had the easiest life. At an early age, Carla was figuring things out on her own.  Although she had a loving grandmother that raised her and her siblings, she lacked guidance when it came to planning for her future. With her parents out of the picture, Carla also took it upon herself to look out for her siblings trying hard to lessen the burden for grandmother. Because of this, Carla’s family has always been the most important thing in her life.

After graduating high school, she married her husband and had two children of her own. Although she and her family faced financial hardships and struggles, Carla also made the decision to take full custody of her nephew after experiencing challenges of his own. By following her grandmother’s lead, she knew how important it was for her nephew to grow up in a loving and supportive home.

With Carla unable to find work, the family relied on one income to help them get by. Living paycheck to paycheck and without a savings account, the family took out credit cards in order to pay for unforeseen expenses and emergencies. Sinking further and further into debt and having three children to support, Carla was desperate to find any kind of relief.

After moving into an affordable housing unit, Carla was introduced to LifeSTEPS and the programs we offer to struggling individuals who were in the same situation as her. She also learned about the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), which she immediately applied for. Nervous and not knowing what to expect, Carla was introduced to her Case Manager who went over the different classes and resources available to her.

For the first time in her life, Carla felt empowered. With financial education courses being offered, as well as one-on-one counseling, Carla was able to learn new ways to save money and budget. Through resume building and job training, Carla was also able to find full-time employment, helping her reduce her debt and finally start a savings account. With the services and resources provided by the FSS Program, Carla has finally been able to do something she never thought would be possible –earn her degree.

With life finally on the right track, Carla and her family are now on the path to reaching stability and self-sufficiency. “Always stay positive and don’t be scared to ask for help. Thank you, LifeSTEPS,” Carla says.

*name has been changed

Finding Hope After Injury

When Ann* moved into her new apartment last June, she did not expect to experience the struggle that she did. After being on the waiting list for a year, Ann and her husband David* were ecstatic when an opening for a one-bedroom unit became available. To Ann and David, moving into an affordable housing unit meant self-sufficiency and stability, which is what they both have always strived for.

One morning, as she was exiting the BART station on her way home from running her daily errands, she had noticed that the usual bus she takes back to her apartment was not stopping. Afraid that the driver did not see her, she began to run when all of a sudden, she missed a step on her way down the stairs. Crashing onto the ground, Ann was left with an injury she never saw coming.

After being rushed to the hospital, Ann was told that she had broken her front teeth and had incurred a gum infection. Being told that she had to call the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to file a claim, Ann became overwhelmed with not only her physical injury, but the confusing application of getting the process started.

Ann and her husband called their Director of Social Services, Qianying, in the hopes that she could help them fill out the paperwork involved. Once Qianying sat down with the couple, she carefully went through each form and helped with the calls that needed to be made. Not only did this put Ann at ease, but it also gave her the physical and mental support she needed to help her get through her ordeal.

Over time, as Ann began to heal, she developed a fear and anxiety of leaving the apartment. With the traumatic injury affecting her daily life, Qianying knew that she needed to help Ann get used to her surroundings and feel comfortable being outside. Qianying suggested that the couple both attend small community gatherings and get familiar with the new property they now called home.

After a few weeks of small outings, Ann slowly began to feel comfortable being outside of her apartment. She began to take daily walks around the property where she was able to meet her new neighbors and explore the community. With such a warm welcome from the other residents, Ann slowly regained her confidence.

Despite a traumatic injury, Ann persevered. Because of the help of Qianying and the LifeSTEPS community, Ann was able to get her life back. She is now finally able to enjoy her new home and move forward with her life. “I am very thankful that LifeSTEPS is here to help me. With the assistance they provided, I am finally feeling better,” Ann says.


*names have been changed

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