Our residents have voluntarily shared their stories to help illustrate the impact that stable housing and resident services have on real people's lives.
Miguel and his family have been IHI residents for 8 years. During this time Miguel has been highly involved in IHI's various youth programs. He participated in afterschool activities when he was in elementary school, IHI's Youth Financial Education program in middle school, and, most recently, IHI's Mentor Program during his last two years of high school. Over the years, IHI's resident services staff worked with Miguel to help him navigate through many ups and downs and stay on the path toward higher education. This summer, IHI staff referred Miguel to IRCO's Summer Youth Employment program, which connects youth with city jobs. Miguel spent his summer commuting to Portland every day to work at Metro Paint. This experience was invaluable for Miguel. He was able to build his resume, save for college expenses, and gain valuable work readiness skills.
We are thrilled to report that this fall Miguel moved to Portland and began college at Portland State University, studying Civil Engineering. He plans to continue working part time while in college and hopes to eventually transfer to Oregon State University.
Dulce is a single, working mom who moved into IHI housing with her 1 year old son. Shortly after moving in, she heard about Resident Services and set up a meeting. When talking to IHI's Resident Services Coordinator, Dulce mentioned that she desperately needed furniture, as she had nothing in her studio apartment and was currently sleeping on the floor. IHI staff referred her to The Community Warehouse where she was able to get a day bed, couch, side table, kitchen utensils, linens and more. IHI's Emergency Fund paid to move Dulce's new items back to her apartment. Having furniture made the apartment feel like a real home and a place Dulce is proud to call her own. And her son loves having things to climb on in the living space! Having established a relationship via this successful referral experience, Resident Services staff is now working with Dulce to secure scholarships so she can go to school and pursue a career in human resources.
With unemployment in Oregon at continually high rates, many of our residents struggle to find consistent work. Last month Eric, a long-time IHI resident, secured employment after almost two years of searching for work. Over the years, he worked with Resident Services staff to expand his resume by taking advantage of volunteer opportunities with IHI and attending job fairs and seeking other employment opportunities posted by IHI staff. After attending countless job fairs all over the county, he finally found the right match and was offered a job! Within a week he was working as a prep cook. Eric stays in touch with IHI resident services staff and reports that the job is going well. After such a long search, he is thrilled to be back at work and on the road to financial stability.
As a teenager without a driver's license, living in the suburbs can be hard. Many places are not accessible via public transportation and taking the bus every day can be expensive. Angelica, a high school junior, lined up a busy and productive summer for herself. She got a part-time summer job and planned to participate in a college prep program, both of which were miles from her home. Unfortunately, Angelica didn't have enough money to cover the costs of public transportation to and from these locations. She approached IHI's resident services staff and asked if there were any programs or resources available to help. The answer was yes! IHI staff had access to grant funds awarded by the Collins Foundation that allowed us to buy Angelica bus passes for the duration of the summer. IHI's assistance with this small but critical financial barrier enabled Angelica to start her senior year with college prep and work experience under her belt, and her future is looking brighter than ever!
Nadia is a long time resident of IHI housing. For the past 5 years she has been a dedicated stay at home mom, but her 2 boys are getting older and Nadia and her husband are hoping to buy their own home. Out of the workforce for a long time, Nadia wasn't sure what her options were for employment. After Nadia described her personal interests, IHI's Resident Services Coordinator referred her to Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. Shortly after learning about the program, Nadia enrolled in the Oregon Tradeswomen's Pathways to Success program, a pre-apprenticeship class designed to help women prepare for a high skill, high wage career in construction with a focus on finding apprenticeships. Through IHI's Emergency Fund, Resident Services paid to have Nadia's transcripts translated to English so she could enroll in this program and helped her purchase required work gear such as boots, pants, and gloves. Within 8 weeks Nadia had completed the program and is now applying for jobs and internships with ODOT and the City of Troutdale. This experience has given Nadia the basic skills, tools, experience and confidence to actively pursue a career she has always wanted.
"I am so glad you told me about this great program...thank you, thank you, thank you!"
After completing the Pathways to Success program, Nadia was offered the opportunity to take a Weatherization training and certification class at Neil Kelly. Upon completing this class, Pathways to Success worked hard to ensure job placement for Nadia. With her new skill set and a qualifying certification under her belt, Nadia applied for and was hired as a full time Weatherization Technician at Neil Kelly. Nadia now has steady income, full benefits and looks forward to a successful, stable career.
"I am so happy being a working woman again! I have Resident Services to thank for helping me find this path!"
After the loss of her husband, the household's sole wage earner, Betty found herself faced with new financial challenges and she quickly fell behind on rent. Utilizing IHI's Emergency Fund, Resident Services stepped in to help Betty get caught up on her rent payments. In addition, Resident Services helped Betty secure on-going rental assistance through Northwest Pilot Project, a nonprofit that provides services to seniors facing eviction, and further helped Betty apply for Social Security Income benefits which will ensure a steady income. Today Betty regularly visits the Resident Services office in her building to say hello and express her gratitude for the staff's support. "I don't know where I would be without Resident Services,"
she says. "It really took someone to push me along to keep me off the streets. I can't explain how grateful I am."
Lisa is a long time resident of IHI housing. After years of steady employment Lisa was laid off, and she and her husband were faced with difficulty paying rent, bills, and everyday expenses for the family. Lisa quickly turned to Resident Services for help in regaining household stability and confidence in her financial future. Over the last 8 months, Resident Services has helped Lisa access rent, food, and utility assistance. Lisa is also participating in IHI's financial education classes and is looking for a new job with support from Resident Services staff. Lisa says, "I just don't know what I would do without this extra support during such hard times!"
Lisa gives back by generously volunteering her time helping with IHI's monthly Harvest Share and other community events.
Rosa has lived in IHI housing for a year and a half. Originally from Cuba, Rosa left her country of 19 years. "I wanted to be free,"
she explains. "Life was very hard."
Before settling into IHI housing, Rosa was living at a downtown shelter and had been in and out of housing for 25 years. IHI's resident services staff have helped Rosa overcome her longstanding language barrier by providing her a refurbished computer and software that teaches English as a second language. Rosa is also a regular participant in onsite workshops. Rosa is thankful for the support she has received and describes resident services staff as "so helpful and nice."
In speaking of her life today, she says, "I feel good and happy. Now that I have a computer, it's even better!"
Rosa's vibrant personality and positive attitude really light up the building and inspire her fellow residents.
Justin, the sole wage-earner of a household of 5, lost his job and, as a temporary employee, did not qualify for unemployment. Justin had always been able to provide for his family and even though he knew about Resident Services, he had never asked for help and was determined not to this time. When he was unable to find work as quickly as he had in the past, he began to panic. The family sold furniture, personal belongings and Justin's work tools to pay rent, but the proceeds weren't enough to cover food or basic necessities and there was no way to pay next month's rent. Justin had recently received a flyer about potential employment opportunities from Resident Services and called the number at the bottom.
When IHI's Resident Services Coordinator met with Justin and his wife, Alayna, she quickly realized that the situation was much more dire than Justin had indicated over the phone. Even if Justin got a job right away, the family would run out of food before his first paycheck. She helped the family understand the importance of taking the uncomfortable steps ahead. She made resource referrals to meet a number of their needs, giving them detailed information about TANF, SNAP (formerly food stamps), health insurance for their children, emergency food-boxes, rental and energy assistance and free school breakfast/lunches and emphasized how important it is that these services are available to hard-working families during an economic recession. She gave them agency addresses and hours of operations and the application and application process for each benefit, and asked Justin and Alayna to call her if they had any trouble accessing any benefits. When energy assistance was unavailable, she arranged to pay the bill through IHI's Emergency Fund. She also researched a Project-based Section 8 option available at the site where the family lives. It turns out that space was available and the family qualified so they now benefit from rent subsidy that ties the amount they pay for rent to their income.
Justin is still looking for work and, while not happy to be dependent on public benefits - even temporarily - he says he is relieved that he doesn't have to worry about where his family will sleep or what they will eat. Without Resident Services, Justin, his wife and three young children may have been homeless before they began accessing the social services necessary to keep the family safe and stable.
"When my husband lost his job, we were in a panic and I don't know if we would have been able to get the help we needed without Resident Services helping us each step of the way." -Alayna, Justin's wife and mother of 3
Regina and her daughter moved into IHI housing in July 2009. Prior to that, Regina had started making some major life changes. She gained full custody of her daughter, excelled at Portland Community College with straight A's and received her GED. With IHI, she has continued her success and secured a part time job and maintained her sobriety. Despite these life-changing accomplishments, the holidays prove to be a very difficult time for Regina and her daughter, as they have historically been a time of witnessing the declining health of Regina's mother who passed in December 2009. Resident Services helped lift the family's spirits last season by helping Chelsea get a bike from the Community Cycling Center. This year, the family was adopted for the season after IHI's Resident Services referred them to the Family Assistance Foundation, a program that pairs families with donors who provide gifts, clothes, and food to create a memorable holiday experience. Regina is thrilled, and received news of her adoption with tears of joy. "This means that my daughter will have a Christmas, and that is all that matters to me."
Desire is a 9-year-old boy who moved into IHI housing with his mother and four siblings almost two years ago. He spent his first seven years in a Burundi refugee camp in Kenya, and shortly after the family moved to the United States his family became homeless due to domestic violence. Desire and his siblings are bright, curious, and eager to learn. Two years ago, they spoke almost no English and were struggling in a school without the resources to meet their needs. This fall, after participating in Innovative Futures
, they began school with a solid grasp of English. Through Innovative Futures, IHI staff began communicating regularly with teachers, made visits to the school and provided targeted services such as tutoring and mentoring. Though three of the five siblings are still behind in their grade levels, they are catching up fast and have the supports they need to succeed at school. The youngest two children are now performing at grade level after receiving solid academic preparation in IHI's summer program. Desire's mother, diligent in her ESL studies and working hard to master the English language, is very committed to her children's education. Using translation services available through Innovative Futures, she attends school orientations and parent/teacher conferences. She also makes sure her children complete homework and take advantage of academic assistance and tutoring throughout the school-year and during the summer. She has her own checking and savings account and competently manages the family's finances with a strong focus on savings.
Ben is 74 years old and, after having a stroke several years ago, he struggles to walk with a cane. Ben's sole income is SSI (meaning he lives on about $674/month) and his rent is almost 75% of his total income. He manages his own money and usually pays rent on time, but he began getting behind and recently missed an entire month of rent. With such a limited income, getting caught up seemed almost impossible. In addition, Ben was having a hard time keeping his apartment clean, which was resulting in unhealthy living conditions, pest infestations and housekeeping notices that were also threatening his tenancy. Resident Services offered to help Ben pay his back rent through IHI's Emergency Fund
, and in exchange Ben agreed to sign up for a payee service and to use an in-home care provider to maintain his unit, shop for groceries and help with personal care. Resident Services staff completed the application for in-home care through Adult Disability Services and helped Ben identify and choose an in-home care provider. IHI staff also accompanied him to the social security office to apply for payee services. Ben's housing is now secure, and his clean living conditions and increased food security contribute to a higher quality of life.
Alicia and her husband live in IHI housing with their four children. One of Alicia's daughters has a chronic illness that required weekly, sometimes daily, trips to OHSU. When Alicia's husband's hours were cut back during a time when hospital trips were critical, Resident Services provided a gas card from our Emergency Fund
and helped the family make arrangements regarding their rent until they were able to pay it. Alicia appreciated the support and likes to give back - every month she helps Resident Services staff distribute fresh produce to the community through Harvest Share.
Richard had been homeless for most of the past 20 years when he first arrived at IHI housing. He was quiet and kept to himself, because he had developed a fear of other people from his years of being vulnerable on the streets. Richard says, "I've been homeless for a long, long time. I've thought about having my own independence where I could do my own cooking. I had to get a chance to have that experience in a house or apartment. I reached the age of 62 and had matured a lot, but I knew it would be hard to make the change from homelessness into an apartment. When I got to the apartment, I had been given a chance to fulfill my dreams of a home. I knew being around people was going to be hard because I had been alone for 20 years. Now I fill my time doing artwork, and I am making guitars again like I did when I was younger. I've learned to keep house, I take showers every day, grocery shop, and my self-esteem has come up. I'm more social, and I have more friends. It's beyond my expectations -- I have food, I eat well, I sleep at night. Thank God I have a home."
Joshele and her family have been long-time participants in many of IHI's resident programs. Joshele has just completed her 3rd year with IHI's Youth Individual Development Account (IDA) Program and also participated in IHI's Youth Mentor Program
over the summer. Last summer, through funding from a local community partner, Joshelle was able to earn minimum wage helping IHI serve summer lunches to youth at two of our family housing sites - her first job. She plans to be the first person in her family to go to college, and she has the grades and support to make it happen. Her younger brother, Demond, just completed his 2nd year of the Youth IDA Program and continues to excel in school and various extracurricular activities. Resident Services has enjoyed watching this family grow and thrive over the years.
Irene and Family
Irene lives with her three boys Freddy, Pepe and Robert. Irene has been a single mother for the past 14 years. This last year in particular has been extremely hard on the family financially and emotionally. Between Irene's hours getting cut at work, needing to pay out of pocket for medical expenses, and consistently going into more debt by using pay day loans, her finances began to spiral out of control. Desperate to manage her debt, Irene decided to join a credit consolidation group that promised to help minimize her monthly payments and ensure her old debt would be paid off. After several months of going into more debt, just to pay for the debt consolidation, Irene found herself in an even worse situation.
When she realized she wasn't going to be able to be able to pay rent, Irene contacted IHI's on-site Resident Services Coordinator. IHI staff worked with Irene to access emergency food and utility assistance. IHI also provided rent assistance through a grant targeted at helping families in financial crisis. This allowed Irene and her family to stay housed and begin to tackle her financial issues. IHI's resident services coordinator has been working one-on-one with Irene for three months. She is gaining the skills to better manage her debt, create and maintain a realistic household budget, and access community resources. "Things are really hard right now, but for the first time I am starting to understand how to take care of my money better, which I know will help my family in the future."
When Nancy moved into IHI's apartment with her two daughters Lindsay and Emmilie, she was stuck in a cycle of short-term, minimum wage employment. Her monthly TANF check fell short of meeting her basic monthly expenses, and she was continually looking for new work. Because she didn't have the money to pay her bills, Nancy ignored her creditors and avoided dealing with her finances. When IHI's Resident Services Coordinator approached Nancy about the idea of applying for college, Nancy laughed and cited the many reasons that college was not for her -- she wasn't smart enough, she wasn't organized enough, and she suffered from social anxiety. But when Nancy was offered a housing subsidy through IHI's Financial Fitness and Asset Building Program
as an incentive, she decided to try a few classes. She says the experience of going to college positively influenced nearly every aspect of her life. She created a detailed monthly budget in Excel and diligently worked on repairing her credit. Nancy says, "My credit scores are important to me now. I'm going to make enough money so that they matter."
She now sees homeownership as an attainable goal rather than merely a dream. Nancy feels more confident in social situations, explaining, "I used to be uncomfortable talking to people, because I never felt like I had anything to offer. Now I have something to talk about."
Nancy values education more than she did before, and she has an increased interest in her children's academic success. According to Nancy, the biggest change in her life as a result of participating in the FFAB program is how she envisions her future. "Before now, everything I did that was difficult, I just quit immediately. Now I want this so bad that I'm going to work -- do whatever -- to make it happen. This is something I never imagined for myself, but now I believe I can have it."
Joanne is a long-time resident at one of IHI's properties. Her disability interferes with daily living activities, and she has been resistant to reaching out for help or using available healthcare services. After completing the application process and months of persistence, IHI's Resident Services Coordinator at The Clifford was finally able to persuade Joanne to access a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) through Adult and Disability Services. Joanne's PCA helps clean her apartment, assists with personal hygiene, and takes Joanne to the grocery store and medical appointments. For the first time in years, Joanne is living in a pest-free environment, receiving regular healthcare and is no longer suffering from food insecurity. IHI purchased her a new mattress to replace a worn-out bed that was causing her daily pain. Our Resident Services Coordinator also helped Joanne access health benefits that provided her with a brand new wheelchair!
Denise, shown here at an American Red Cross CPR/First Aid class, is the oldest of Laura's daughters. Through an immigration mix-up at birth, Laura has spent decades pursuing a citizenship that was already hers. After being nearly deported, IHI referred her to non-profit legal services that specialize in immigration issues. Within months, Laura had a US passport in hand. Laura is a dedicated parent of 3 great kids. She is an active volunteer at her children's schools and participates in numerous community volunteer events. Because she has been unable to work, Laura's family has struggled on a single income, but this can now change. In the meanwhile, IHI has helped extensively with money management and resource planning
to keep the family stable in housing.
Julie and Shania
Before Julie and her daughter Shania moved into IHI housing in 2006, they had been sleeping on a friend's floor after fleeing a domestic violence situation. Prior to moving into IHI housing, Julie suffered a severe back injury and was missing a great deal of work. When it became clear that Julie was struggling to pay rent and meet basic household needs, Resident Services intervened to prevent an eviction
. IHI staff worked closely with Julie to make sure she was able to maintain housing until she was finally awarded disability benefits. This included using our Emergency Fund
to meet immediate needs and assistance accessing multiple community resources
. Julie engaged in several budgeting sessions to figure out how to manage her reduced income and continues to participate in tenant workshops and community events, and Shania is an active participant in youth programs. This family is stable in IHI housing, but would have faced homelessness again without the assistance of Resident Services.