Willie has a history of commitment to people, to work, and to his country. When he left the Army in 1987, he had served for 12 years. He married and had five children, four of whom eventually joined the military. He also had struggles. By the time had was 35, he’d had 3 strokes and a heart attack, all related, he says, to his addiction to crack cocaine. He divorced. He had problems with work related to his addiction. He says he finally hit bottom, which was what he needed to make the changes necessary to get sober. Although he has been clean of drugs for 5 years now, he ended up homeless after the combination of some poor financial decisions and the end of a relationship. Willie obtained a job soon after arriving at Austin Street Center and has been working 5-6 days a week at a car wash, saving his money and working towards getting a place of his own again. That day is happening soon! He praises his Austin Street Center Case Manager who has helped with connections, resources, paperwork, locating support groups available outside of his work hours, and transportation, and he adds, “Case Managers here really are concerned about people.”
“There is a rainbow, a beautiful ray of sunshine, at the end of this.” These are words spoken by Austin Street Resident Lenora as she talks about life as a woman experiencing homelessness. Married for seventeen years, and currently separated from her husband, she recalls, “I had a job. I paid the bills. I was the one who took care of everything.” She has hobbies that she greatly misses. “I love to refurbish furniture. I love to plant. I love Home Depot.”
On a bus recently, Lenora heard several other passengers make remarks as the bus passed people who appeared to be homeless. Lenora asked them, “What does homelessness look like?” After a bit of discussion with her fellow passengers, she told them that she is homeless—and they were stunned.
Lenora says, “I’ve fallen, but I’m not going to lay there. I just need a hand up. Do I cry about it? Yes. Do I talk with a counselor about it? Yes.” She meets with her case manager regularly, has updated her resume, and meets with Texas Workforce Commission while she looks for work. She finds comfort in writing, and in offering encouragement to other residents of Austin Street.
Lenora finds it difficult to talk about her loved ones. She mentions that is was tough growing up with a mom diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has a daughter who lives in a suburb of Dallas, but neither has transportation to visit the other. With tears in her eyes, Lenora says that she has grandchildren she hasn’t seen in more than a year.
Austin Street Center exists so that Lenora and others like her can live in safety and receive the help they need to move toward the “beautiful ray of sunshine” at the end of their homeless experience.
For Jerry, the road of mental illness and homelessness has been a long-traveled one. When discharged from the Army in 1975, he was already showing symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Jerry returned to Oklahoma, where he has family, but wasn’t able to keep a job. Hoping to find better employment opportunities than those in the small town he was leaving, Jerry came to Texas. The problems continued however. Each time he got work, he lost it. He has never been able to have his own place, and has spent his adult years off and on in shelters, staying with friends, or on the streets. Now 60 years old, Jerry just moved into his own apartment – his first one ever! His frequent smile widens even more when talking about having a place of his own, thinking about watching football on TV, and having his own kitchen table for the first time. He knows he needs continuing support with his illness, but is thankful that he will finally have privacy, dignity, and some simple things that others take for granted.
John a single parent and a father of five came to ACO in desperate need of help. John was laid off from a Corporate America position where he had health benefits, substantial salary and what he believed was stability. John believed shortly after his lay off he would bounce back quickly into the same industry he left or something similar. One month turned into two months, three months turned into six and six months turned into a year. After exhausting all of his options and being unable to survive on unemployment benefits John reluctantly came to ACO.
He met with an Emergency Assistance Case Manager for financial assistance for his mortgage. John was offered additional services such as food from ACO’s food pantry, clothing and appliance from ACO’s Resale Shop and Personal hygiene and care items from ACO’s Care and Share program. Overridden with shame John replied, “No thank, please give those items to someone who needs it.”
John’s Emergency Assistance Case Manager encouraged him to partake in the services empowering to reap the benefits as a tax payer. John continued to refuse the majority of the services but agreed to shop in the food pantry. ACO’s front desk staff made John an appointment and sent him on his way.
The next week an ACO volunteer from the Food Pantry informed the Emergency Assistance Case Manager of a client that refused to shop in the pantry and returned his appointment card to the food pantry staff. The volunteer handed the Case Manager the card and it was John.
The Case Manager contact John to meet with him in person again to discuss the situation, John agreed. At the meeting John revealed feelings of overwhelming shame, guilty and deep frustration. Having a Bachelor’s degree and unable to feed, clothing and possibly house his children was degrading for him. Sharing his circumstances with a social service agency was belittling and shopping in a food pantry for the first time was devastating.
After meeting with ACO’s Emergency Assistance team John gathered the courage to get the help he needed. John began receiving services from our food pantry, resale shop, emergency and professional development. John went from earning $0.00 a year to $10.00/hr. to $39,000 yearly. John is not finished; ACO’s Transforming Lives program will fund John to obtain a Project Manager certification to boost his career and move from poverty to self –sufficiency!
Amanda, a 25 years old single mother of four wears many physical and emotional scars as a result of domestic violence came into ACO in need of financial assistance to prevent homeless and hunger in her family’s lives.
Amanda works 40 hours a week, earning $17.00/hr. to care for a household of 4. Although she has a full time job, each month she makes payment arrangements with multiple bill collectors to maintain her utilities, pay rent with late fees all while attempting to avoid overdraft fees from her local bank. Amanda is what we call the working poor.
Amanda is employed with a reputable company, makes more than minimum wage but not enough to financially maintain her household. Amanda earns too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid but not enough to feed her hungry children or pay the outstanding balances on the medical bills that cause her credit score to decline at a rapid rate.
Although, she possesses a great deal of professional experience, one of Amanda’s major barriers to escaping poverty is education. A high school diploma and a few college credits, lack of disposable income and the inability to maintain her family’s basic needs (food, water, and shelter) prevent Amanda from achieving her life’s goal of becoming an RN.
Amanda knew if something didn’t change in her life, she could never escape the grasp poverty has on her life! Imagine having to choose between food and shelter and education! It’s hard to imagine isn’t it! No one should have to make that choice, especially when very resource you need is the resource that can change your life for the better.
Through ACO’s comprehensive services, Amanda is received financial assistance to avoid homelessness and more! Amanda walked into ACO to resolve a temporary crisis and walked out with long term change!
Amanda now receives emergency assistance for utilities to assist her in building a savings account to plan for the future for her family, a Financial Advisor to help her budget her income, food from the food pantry to feed her children 3 meals a day, Financial Literacy to reduce debt, clothing, shoes, household appliance and furniture from the resale shop and tuition assistance to complete her education and fulfill her dream to become an RN! Allen Community Outreach is not just giving a hand out, we give a hand up!
Angie visited the bank to make her usual transaction for the week and realizes her PIN number doesn’t work. She enters the bank lobby and speaks to a representative only to find she is not an authorized signer on the account and the funds she once had access to; are no longer available. After such shocking news, Angie calls her husband only to find that he is in the process of filing for divorce and she has a limited number of days to move out of their family home.
Angie, possessing a high school education and a few college courses under her belt doesn’t know where to start. She has been out of the workforce for 10 years!
Anxiety ridden, desperate and confused Angie, learns how to apply for a job through ACO’s Professional Development program, pay her bills online through assistance from ACO’s Emergency Assistance Case Manager, and open a bank account through ACO’s Financial Literacy classes. Through ACO’s emergency financial assistance program she is able to maintain her home until she obtains employment. Through ACO’s Client Choice Food Pantry she is able to feed her family healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables from community gardens, Whole foods, Sprouts and much more! She is able to obtain clothing, appliances and shoes for her children through ACO’s Resale Shop!
Angie learns to navigate her way to maintain her home in a way she never knew she could! She obtains a job as a waitress earning a little over $2.10/hr. an hour plus tips to take care of herself and two children. Working double shifts only helps her to pay enough on her mortgage to barely avoid foreclosure. Angie has made it a long way but it still isn’t enough. Angie needs a career not a job, but that only comes with higher education or a certification in a lucrative field of study.
Angie enrolled into ACO’s Transforming Lives GED program and has recently passed two sections of the four parts of her test. Angie has a long way to go, and is willing to go the distance! Through ACO’s comprehensive services she can obtain all of her needs in a one stop shop. ACO helps change lives, circumstances and mindsets! Angie not only changed her circumstances through comprehensive services, but changed her “I can’t “mentality to “I did”! ACO gives a hand up not a hand out!
An urban pioneer, responding to the unmet and emerging needs of the homeless and at-risk of Dallas for more than 40 years. THE STEWPOT Donate Today
Raymond* has been a client of The Stewpot’s Representative Payee (Rep Payee) Program for a little over a year. The Stewpot Rep Payee Program provides free caseworker assistance to persons suffering from mental illness, chemical dependency, or physical disabilities, and who are unable to manage their federal benefits independently, including Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability.
For the past six years, Raymond has lived at a local shelter and his struggles with mental illness have led to him being hospitalized on a number of occasions. Recently, however, he was able to secure an apartment through another local nonprofit and has been there for about a month. He continues to come in to The Stewpot weekly to meet with the caseworker who is his designated Rep Payee.
Since she has been working with him, his Stewpot caseworker has noticed a profound change in him. He has gone from being unkempt in appearance to being more polished and confident. The man who used to avoid eye contact now smiles when he sees her.
Even though he is now housed, Raymond will continue to participate in the Rep Payee program as it is key to his ongoing stability. A relationship of trust has been established and, together with the support he receives from the staff at the nonprofit who helped him secure housing, The Stewpot Rep Payee Program will help him move forward and maintain housing stability.
James* came to the Stewpot as a homeless client in need of a Texas ID. Our on-site caseworkers helped him acquire it, and during the course of their meetings told him about the STREETZine program which offers temporary employment selling a homeless newspaper produced by the Stewpot.
He started selling the paper and, because he was such a loyal vendor, was asked if he would like to become a Vendor Sales Representative (VSR). James came in faithfully every week to fulfill his VSR responsibilities, and when there was an opening for a new instructor to teach orientation for new vendors, was asked if he would like to take the position.
The caseworker in charge of the STREETZine vendor program reports that he is the best instructor we have ever had. Since first coming to the Stewpot three years ago, he has secured an apartment through a supportive housing program and continues to lead the orientation class and introduce other Stewpot clients to the STREETZine program.
*Names have been changed to protect the clients’ privacy
It’s an emotional time for new parents Rachel and Karl. Their sweet baby girl, Kamryn, was born just this past May. With such a big change in their lives, having your support through your generosity to the Arlington Life Shelter has meant so much to this small family.
Rachel says her family’s problems began when Karl, a pipeline worker, lost his job of 12 years. To make ends meet, he found work as a commercial truck driver. But his time with the company ended suddenly when he was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that totaled his only work vehicle. At the same time, he and Rachel – almost at her due date – were staying with a relative and needed to find a new place to live.
Thanks to your gifts, Karl and Rachel were able to come to the Arlington Life Shelter just in time for Kamryn’s arrival. They were given a safe place to live while caring for their newborn and preparing to get back on solid footing. Karl and Rachel know it won’t be long before they’re in a place where they can provide for Kamryn on their own. The couple has been overwhelmed with gratitude for how the community has responded to Kamryn’s debut into the world. Your support — fills Rachel and Karl with hope.
Rachel can’t say enough what your generosity has meant to her family. “God bless you,” Rachel says. “We would not have had a place to live without your donations.”
Families Are Safe, Thanks to You
You wouldn’t know by looking at her that Stacey is homeless. She’s so full of hope and cheer despite all she’s been through that she is often mistaken for an Arlington Life Shelter volunteer rather than a Shelter resident.
But the truth is, Stacey and her three children — KayLeigh, J.J. and Devin — have been here since the end of 2015. Left homeless after Stacey suffered a series of major health setbacks, the family stayed in motels, then with family. When Stacey’s last option was for her family to sleep in their van, she knew she needed to find help — fast. After a quick search, she found the Arlington Life Shelter, which, she hoped, would be a safe place to start over.
Stacey wasn’t misguided. Upon arriving, each family member was given their own bed and sense of safety and belonging they hadn’t felt in a long time. And Stacey’s teenage daughter, KayLeigh, has even been able to keep her violin skills sharp by practicing in the quiet of the Shelter’s library. Every family deserves a safe place to live, and your gifts make this possible for countless children, women and men in our community. Stacey is one of the many you’ve already helped, and she’s beyond grateful for all you’ve done. “Thank you,” Stacey says, sincerely. “I can’t say thank you enough.”