Immigration Assistance Fund Opens Doors for LifeSTEPS resident

In May 2021, LifeSTEPS resident Rosa received financial assistance from our Immigration Assistance Fund to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status allowing her to work and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

Thanks to LifeSTEPS’ Immigration Assistance program, Rosa, a single mother of six children and a survivor of domestic violence, recently finished her schooling and received her high school diploma. What’s next for Rosa?  College and then medical school.

“I wanted to work to create a better life for me and my children,” said Rosa. “This funding opened doors for me and will help me become financially independent. With DACA status, I can now apply for financial aid and scholarships for college.”

Rosa and her children love volunteering and participating at LifeSTEPS programs and events at their housing community, especially the after school program (ASP) which four of her children attend. To give back, Rosa plans to volunteer at her local church, help distribute materials to the students in ASP and volunteer at LifeSTEPS events.

Learn more about LifeSTEPS’ Immigration Assistance Fund.

LifeSTEPS’ After School Program Reaches 5,000 Youth in 2021

These two love LifeSTEPS’ After School Program (ASP), which touched the lives of nearly 5,000 children and youth across California in 2021. Our curriculum and structured activities focus on being safe, respectful and responsible, and most of all, having fun while learning. Plus, having a caring and consistent place to maintain structure helps LifeSTEPS’ youngest residents and their families thrive.

#learning #community #residentservices #affordablehousing #housingplusservices #afterschoolprogram #LifeSTEPS #25YearsStrong

After School Program Coordinator Rayvonte Toliver is Changing Lives

Rayvonte Toliver’s passion for working with children caught the attention of LifeSTEPS Director of Social Services Ronita at the affordable housing community where he lives with his parents and siblings. Admiring his eagerness to help others, Ronita suggested that he interview for an open position supporting LifeSTEPS’ After School Program (ASP) at a nearby apartment community in Sacramento. The rest is history; he’s been connecting with and supporting low-income and at-risk youth ever since as an ASP program coordinator at The Madison.

“Rayvonte has been a strong and consistent presence in the lives of his students for years.  Through the personal connections he makes with each student, he is able to gear his educational activities to their likes and dislikes, which make The Madison’s ASP program so successful and popular,” said Rachel Roguski, LifeSTEPS Northern Regional Director of Social Services.

Rayvonte’s ASP serves 15-20 students on a daily basis. His determination and adaptable approach to both teaching and learning has attracted many new participants to the program. Rayvonte provides a safe, caring, and academically challenging environment in which children may develop their self-esteem, creativity, learning and social skills after school.

“I think the ASP is well loved and attended due to me being an adult kid, so to say.  The students look up to me for guidance and are not afraid to ask me for help because they feel I’m one of them,” said Rayvonte.

His ability to build relationships at The Madison with ASP participants, their families, property management and LifeSTEPS staff helped Rayvonte create and launch the newly formed “Teen Club” on the property, where he provides support for his participant’s older siblings and youth at the apartment community.

“I try to provide places where all students know it is safe for them to be themselves, no matter what that is, and be able to do so without interfering with another child trying to do the same. Rather let’s see how we all can utilize our uniqueness to benefit our friendships and relationships,” said Rayvonte.

When COVID-19 forced LifeSTEPS to shift modes and conduct its ASP remotely, Rayvonte adapted right away. He went door to door throughout his community, dropping off educational activities and making sure his students still had access to the best learning and support programs. And earlier this year, after a powerful storm caused a tree to fall on The Madison’s community room where Rayvonte conducts ASP, Rayvonte gathered his students and held his program outside.

“Rayvonte always puts the kids and their education first; he makes the best of any situation. He has compassion for his students, and regardless of any circumstance, he makes sure his students are able to get the after school support they need,” said Esmeralda Mendoza, LifeSTEPS Regional Supervisor of Social Services.

As serious as he is about learning and connecting, Rayvonte wants learning to be fun!  He created Fun Friday to reward his students for their hard work during the week.  Whether it’s a board game competition, relay races or a flag football game, to name a few, the students love being competitive and look forward to those end-of-the-week activities together.

“What I like most about working with the kids is the smiles and stories. Listening and interacting with them is so interesting because you never know what you get. I think I like the fact that every day is different,” said Rayvonte. “My coworkers motivate me; their willingness to help these children thrive makes going in to work every day effortless.”

Finding Stability Through Permanent Supportive Housing

Forty-one-year old Megan* was fighting for her life. She had lost touch with her daughter and was in desperate need of mental health services. Battling drug addiction while dealing with bipolar disorder was more than she could handle, and she needed a support system and a light at the end of the tunnel.

Megan soon found herself homeless and spent a year living on the streets before being arrested and sent to jail for 11 months.  She was released early but did not comply with probation and returned to prison for seven more months. Megan did not want to be in jail nor did she want to be homeless, but she needed support and treatment for her mental illness.

“During my second time in jail, I decided that I didn’t want to be institutionalized. I wanted to live so I realized that I had to change my behavior,” said Megan.

Megan was released to the Office of Diversion and Reentry’s (ODR) housing program, a permanent supportive housing program serving individuals who are homeless, have a serious mental health disorder, and are incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail. With assistance from the Department of Health Services (DHS), Megan quickly filled out the necessary paperwork to apply for permanent supportive housing. Little did she know that her life was about to change.

A new beginning

Megan moved into permanent supportive housing where she lives by herself and focuses on improving her mental health.  In addition to intensive case management, LifeSTEPS Intensive Case Manager Maria provided Megan with emotional support and arranged for mental health services. She helped Megan locate and reach out to her grandmother and daughter. After reconnecting with them, Maria helped Megan buy stationery so she could keep in contact with her family through letter writing. Since then, Megan’s family has been a reliable support system for her, which has played a critical role in her successful transition from being homeless to having a home.

“Megan has worked hard since getting out of prison to stay sober and remain on the right path to ensure she never returns to prison. She is a great example of the impact that permanent supportive housing can have on someone with the assistance of case management,” said Maria.

Your partnership changes lives

Thanks to the collaboration and partnership between ODR, DHS and LifeSTEPS, Megan is thriving in permanent supportive housing. She has made friends at her apartment community, and reminds others to stay sober. With stable and safe housing, and supportive services from LifeSTEPS, Megan reconnected with her family and friends. She feels healthier and happier, and is planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in her own apartment for the first time with her family.

*Name changed