For months, Eric* lived in a converted apartment inside of a garage with his wife who suffered from PTSD, and his autistic son. Eric worked as a part-time DJ, but his full-time job was taking care of his family. Although Eric’s converted apartment sufficed for some time, it wasn’t long until the county condemned their home, and ordered Eric and his family to find “approved” housing within 21 days.
Life became even more challenging as soon as COVID-19 hit, and Eric was no longer able to DJ due to widespread health restrictions on public events. With zero savings in his bank account, Eric didn’t have many options. He decided that it would be best for his family to relocate to a local homeless shelter while he attempted to find a more stable solution. Unfortunately, Eric soon realized that the shelter did not work for his son’s high needs and their family’s only alternative was to live out of their car while they came up with a long term solution.
When the family’s situation became known, the Department of Social Services (DSS) referred Eric and his family to a homeless program that places families into hotels for up to two weeks. This option worked well for the two weeks, but when that time was up, Eric’s family still needed to find something more sustainable. During a meeting with DSS, Eric’s family applied to the Housing Support Program (HSP), a program run in partnership between FCNI and DSS that provides affordable housing for local homeless families. Program participants also receive case management and one-on-one guidance to help them develop critical life skills, as well as community linkage so that they have the support and resources needed to successfully transition to self sufficiency.
After their application was submitted, Eric and his family could do nothing by wait to see if they would be approved.
Weeks went by--which felt like months--until Eric received a phone call from an FCNI case manager named Jennifer who got to tell them the exciting news that they had been officially approved to participate in the Housing Support Program!
Once in the HSP Program, Eric and Jennifer began to meet on a regular basis. At first, Eric was extremely hesitant to put his trust in the hands of a complete stranger. Thankfully, Jennifer was able to make him feel comfortable, and together they mapped out important goals that the family needed to achieve, as well as a plan to secure stable housing. Eric began looking for apartments and submitted several housing applications. His first few experiences were difficult, him stating, “When I went to check out the apartment I really wanted, there were 19 people looking at the place for a one bedroom.” Which made him say, “Out of these 19 people, how could I possibly be the one that gets this place? There was no way.” Sadly, Eric’s application for housing was denied at several different apartment complexes. He was starting to lose hope of ever finding a place to live.
Despite how difficult Eric’s situation was, Jennifer worked hard to keep his spirits high and his mind motivated. Eventually, Eric stumbled upon a property management agency that claimed to have housed tenants with autistic children. After speaking with the landlord, the agency allowed Eric to skip through some of the grueling parts of the application process, and Eric successfully secured an apartment for his family. Eric’s family finally had a place to call home! His HSP team then provided Eric and his family with community donated funds so that they could purchase a couch, some small kitchen appliances and other necessary furnishings for their new home.
Reflecting on his journey to finding his home, Eric couldn’t be more grateful for Jennifer, him sharing, “She’s pretty much a friend now, and helped guide my way through this. [...] she always had something positive to say to me about me as a person. She showed me that I could do it. She was never bossy or demanding. She never told me what to do; she just supported the things that I did do. In exchange, I tried to show her the same respect [by completing goals in my case plan]. I think that's what she really liked about me and my family. If there was something in the way, we handled it right then and there, and we didn't put it off until later. It was hard. It wasn't a breeze. It was three and half months of real hard...but we got through it.”
Through HSP, Eric has learned some essential life skills, including how to budget, and is currently saving to update his DJ equipment. Additionally, his wife is now working part time in a local coffee shop and his son is loving his new home.
As famous writer Mike Yankoski once said, “Sometimes it's easy to walk by [someone who is struggling] because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.”
By donating to FCNI, you have the opportunity to help families like Eric’s obtain essential items for their home, cover housing application fees, minor home repairs, and so much more. There are hundreds of local families near you who need your help. Your support--big or small--can collectively make a large impact on a family who needs it the most. To donate today, click here.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality