After Two Years Without A Home, It Was Time For Real Change
Mr. W., an Army veteran, along with his family, enrolled in Easterseals Oregon's Supportive Services for Veteran Families program on November 23, 2020, after being referred by the Homeless Veterans Hotline. Their case manager, Andrea, was able to get them into a hotel as temporary lodging while permanent housing search was conducted. The W. family has two children and was placed at the top of the housing priority list.
Mr. and Mrs. W. both have barriers which made housing difficult. I reached out to our community partner, Jennifer Hernandez with Polk Community Development Corporation to see if she had any 2-bedroom vacancies, and if she would be willing to work with the client. She had an immediate opening and we were able to get them moved in to their new place on December 14th, just 3 weeks after being enrolled in the SSVF program.
In Their Own Words:
“My husband and I recently moved into our own home after being homeless with our children off and on for the last few years. Finding housing has been next to impossible for us due to our many barriers. To start with both my husband and I struggled with substance addiction, we both have a criminal history, our credit is very poor, and our income does not meet the 3X the amount of rent even with the lowest of low rentals (especially since covid-19 hit). Then there is our rental history. An eviction within the last 5 years leaves us far from good. The year prior to our current homelessness I was living in an Oxford house working on my sobriety. Then covid-19 hit, I was left without a job and unemployment was impossible to reach after months of lockdown and still no unemployment and no job and I was forced out of my Oxford home, once again homeless.
The last time my family had a place to call a home of our own, in 2017 we had been working with the VA Hud-Vash program. They were able to help us get onto the city of Salem housing and help us obtain a voucher for housing. We kept that home until our lease was up. During that time we were provided with workers from the VA to help us work on our barriers and become self-sufficient. Only after they helped us get into a home we didn't really hear from them.
After becoming homeless again, I tried many times contacting Hud-Vash with no success. We had spent hundreds of dollars on rental apps only to be denied. After many attempts I was finally able to get my husband Chris (who is an army veteran) to reach out and call the homeless veterans hotline. I was amazed at how quickly they were able to get resources for us. The first number they gave us was for the SSVF of Oregon which was Easter Seals. I contacted Easter Seals right away and spoke with Andrew (by the way it's amazing). Andrew remembered me from working together years prior when we were on the HUD-Vash program. He had helped me with getting my OLCC and food handler’s card reissued. After speaking with Andrew for a short while, he said that he was sure they could help us and probably get us into a hotel or a safe place somewhere warmer and safer than our car. He would give our information to Andrea who was a worker there at Easter Seals. He said that she was amazing and knew what she was doing. He told me to give him a call the next day. When I called the next day, Andrew gathered some information from me, and by the following day I was speaking with Andrea. I couldn't believe how quickly she worked. She had me, my kids, and my husband in a hotel that evening. Not only that, but she also had another worker bring us a couple of food boxes. It was so nice to be able to sleep in beds, be warm all the time and HOT SHOWERS OMG HOT SHOWERS! Andrea is wonderful. She checked on us every other day. If there was anything we needed she was there to help. We had only expected to have the hotel for a few days max. We stayed at that hotel for a little over a month.
During the time we were at the hotel, I had asked about when they would be able to get us help with finding permanent housing. Andrea, told us she would put us in touch with the housing worker April, but it would be a while because she had a very large work load. She also asked if we would be opposed to Polk County. I was so happy she asked because my kids had been in the Dallas school district for the last few years. I let her know I'd very much like to keep them as stable as possible. (Knowing from experience how detrimental it can be for a child to change schools) after only a week or two of being in the hotel, I received a call from Andrea asking me to call April the housing worker. April had asked that Chris and I come and get some applications to fill out and return. I was extremely nervous after reading the information that came along with the application, but April reassured me that they have worked with Jen from Polk CDC before and she is very understanding and works with people who have criminal records, poor rental history, and substance abuse. I was familiar with Jen because I had previously tried to get into Jen's place in Dallas. That's where my sponsor lives as well as my sister was a past resident at Jen's place. With just a week and a half before Christmas, April had informed me that we had an appointment with Jen at her office in Dallas and that we had been preapproved for a place. On the day of our appointment, we didn't expect to be moving or getting keys; but to our surprise, we were signing our lease agreement and got our keys. We were so excited and so thankful words couldn't express how happy we were to be able to have a place to call our own. Not just a house but a home. I wish I could find the words to express our gratitude. I wish I had more time to really express how much help we have received but my kids have a home. We feel safe and cozy when we go to bed at night and we no longer have to live out of bags and that’s thanks to the wonderful people at Easter Seals.
Thank you to all of you.”
With the collaborate efforts of Easterseals Oregon’s Veterans programs, Polk CDC, the Elks Lodge, and Honoring Heroes, we were able help the W family obtain permanent housing and furnish their apartment. This “housing-first” approach allows them to feel safe and secure in their environment while they search for steady employment and work towards self-sufficiency.
Thank you for being open to sharing your story, Mr. and Mrs. W!
NOTE: The participant's actual name has been replaced in order to maintain privacy, but the details of the story have not been altered.
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