Transformed through Technology

In October 2016, Mobile Beacon, a unique internet provider focused on nonprofits and educational organizations, awarded LifeSTEPS with a grant for a pilot digital inclusion program, which included 25 laptops and one year of internet access. The results so far have been outstanding, and we have been able to use these laptops in over 80 properties to date. Here is one resident’s story of how access to this technology has changed her life.

Samantha* and her husband Ricardo, along with their two boys, have been living for the past five years at Cortez City Lights, a small affordable housing community near Echo Park in the heart of Los Angeles.

Samantha made the decision when her oldest son was born, about 12 years ago, to stay at home and focus on raising the kids, which was the best decision at the time for her and her family. This path has brought her a lot of joy, and she is proud of how she’s raised her boys. But of course, there have been sacrifices. Samantha has passed up academic and career opportunities to focus on her family. Her husband has worked long hours in the service hours, and living on one income is tough.

In January, Samantha identified that she wanted to rebuild her career now that both boys are in school and busy with extracurriculars. She decided that getting back in the workforce, having a career outside of the home, and contributing to the household income would be best for their family right now, and she also was excited to pursue goals she’d long been considering.

However, her job search stalled without ready access to the internet and a computer. Samantha quickly realized she’d need some help, so she sought out Jessica, the on-site LifeSTEPS Director of Social Services. Jessica had received a laptop and wifi hotspot from our partnership with Mobile Beacon, so she was able to help Samantha search for jobs online. Together, they learned of the requirements for the jobs Samantha was seeking, and Jessica helped her create a new resume using the Mobile Beacon laptop. She also took the opportunity to coach Samantha, and she is pleased to report that Samantha is now happily employed! And soon, she hopes to complete the GED examination and will work with Jessica to develop a plan to continue growing her career.

Samantha tells us, “I am now self-sufficient and capable of helping my husband financially, lessening his work load and financial stress. You played a role in making my transition back to the job market a real success.” We at LifeSTEPS could not have helped Samantha in this way without the support of and partnership with Mobile Beacon! Thanks, Mobile Beacon, for all you are doing to help us build strong communities.

*Names are changed to protect resident privacy.


Partnership for HOPE Brings Education Goals within Reach!

Danielle Martin was a new Partnership for HOPE scholar in 2016.  Her path toward becoming a PFH scholar took many detours before Danielle was able to find stability in her life and in her education.  Growing up in foster care and moving house to house, school to school was not conducive to educational success and focus.  Now as a young adult, Danielle has taken control of her own life. She lives in a stable home at Terracina Apartments in Los Angeles and is on track to graduate with her AA degree in psychology this coming June.


For every roadblock that life threw at her, Danielle responded with a double dose of determination and resilience. Danielle has taken her own struggles and used them as motivation to empower other young women to aim for their personal goals as well.  Danielle founded an organization geared toward girls in foster care and organizes an annual conference to focus on positivity and empowerment.


Danielle, herself, uses her artistic talents to share spoken word poetry with a positive message.  She has traveled to the State Capitol with California Youth Connection (CYC), a youth led organization that develops leaders who empower each other and their communities to transform the foster care system through legislative, policy, and practice change.


The Partnership for HOPE award that Danielle received in Fall 2016 was a catalyst for her future academic success.  After Danielle graduates with her AA degree she has plans to enter UCLA and earn a Master’s in Social Work degree in pursuit of a career as a child therapist. Danielle knows what it’s like to be that kid without a home or the student who never starts and end a grade in the same school.  Now with help from Partnership for HOPE Danielle is on the path to bring HOPE to more students just like herself.

JB Brown Fund Scholarships Ignite Hope!

When it comes to awarding JB Brown college scholarships, one USA Properties Fund community shines like a beacon on a hill, brighter than any other.

In the heart of San Jose, the Mayfair Apartments are home to an extremely diverse population; many are recent immigrants and are still struggling to learn English. However, this doesn’t stop Jasmine Carter, Mayfair’s Property Manager, from promoting the JB Brown College Scholarship Program and encouraging her residents to apply.

Jasmine posts flyers on community boards, puts one on every door, and even hosts a JB Brown Scholarship Program informational meeting to explain the program, the requirements, and how to fill out the application. She makes herself available to answer any questions they have and helps each applicant when they need documents copied or faxed.

At first it was a slow start to spread the word among the resident youth and for the youth to believe that going to college is attainable. Most have watched their parents work long hours in low wage jobs… most had no one in their family or circle of friends who would dream about something as big as earning a college degree, but eventually Jasmine’s efforts paid off. After the oldest in a family of five children applied and was awarded their first scholarship, the next sibling was excited to do the same. Today there are four siblings from this one family all going to San Jose State University and one will be graduating soon!

Incredibly, for the Spring 2017 semester there are eight Mayfair residents attending college on a JB Brown Scholarship!

Currently Hien, Anh, Luong, and Van Pham are all at San Jose State; four other individuals from different Mayfair families are now attending college throughout Northern California. Karla Mondragon is at UC Santa Cruz in her second year; Nguyen Tran is attending at Sacramento State University; and Alvaro Gutierrez and Victoria Rico have joined the Pham family at San Jose State.

Jasmine has witnessed a change come over Mayfair since so many families have a son or daughter in college. In her engagement with residents she sees more of a comfortable confidence; more residents are speaking English, more are being responsible and paying their rent on time.

Jasmine feels personal satisfaction from knowing she has played a role in the future success of her residents, “It makes me feel like we do WAY more than provide an apartment to families. We are helping these individuals create a better life for themselves – giving them an opportunity they might not have had otherwise, or that they would have struggled more to achieve. No one said we HAD to offer college scholarships to residents. We could simply be a property management company that moves people in, takes their rent, and fixes their work orders. But we’re NOT! We stand out from others, we CARE! In a money hungry world – where everything revolves around “what am I getting out of this” – we only want to see how others are benefiting and what they’re going to do to better themselves. We’re not asking for anything in return. WHO DOES THAT?! That’s why it’s so important to me, because it proves that we can stand out for the greater good.”

LifeSTEPS Helps Older Adults Age-in-Place


Editor’s Note: Nearly 40% of the communities LifeSTEPS serves provide housing for older adults. As such, we have a strong commitment in helping older adults “age in place”. Most live on a fixed income. Some, because they may receive a small pension or have a modest retirement account, make too much to qualify for certain benefits, but don’t make enough to afford out-of-pocket expenses. They are “trapped in the gap” and, because of this, their independence is threatened. LifeSTEPS is focused on helping these individuals – along with all other older adults we serve – to remain in their homes and their communities.

In today’s challenging economy many people of modest means need help paying bills, particularly medical bills. This is especially true for older adults.

Often older adults have to choose between going to the doctor or putting foodRebecca on the table.  If an older adult makes a little too much each month to qualify for certain Medi-Cal benefits, but not enough to afford out of pocket expenses, they are “trapped in the gap”. Because they cannot afford certain expenses – like in home health services or other medical expenses – they often will move into a skilled nursing facility prematurely. When this happens, they leave their community (and independence) behind.

Rebecca is an active resident in her affordable community and enjoys volunteering at various community events. She attends LifeSTEPS educational classes, with a particular interest in anything healthcare related. When she was faced with knee surgery, it was suggested that she purchase some adaptive medical equipment that would help her during her recovery.

Rebecca knew the equipment would be immensely helpful but she could not afford it – and it wasn’t fully covered through Med-iCal. About the same time she also started having dental pain and learned that she had an infection in her mouth. She was faced with yet another expense beyond her means.

The community manager referred Rebecca to LifeSTEPS for financial help. Through the LifeSTEPS Client Assistance Program (Craig’s Fund), which is also supported by the JB Brown Fund (USA Properties), Rebecca received the help she needed to purchase the medical equipment and have her dental treatment. The provision of this equipment made Rebecca’s recovery much more comfortable and the dental treatment eradicated the painful infection.

Rebecca did not have to dip into her rent or grocery money to cover these expenses. She was able to get her needs met without jeopardizing her economic stability. She had a LifeSTEPS social worker there to help her throughout, providing technical expertise and emotional support.

This is a great example of how residents are experiencing better physical and financial health through LifeSTEPS and the JB Brown Fund.