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LaTasha, A Home Of Our Own

 

Living out of a suitcase is not the life LaTasha imagined for herself and two young children. Nevertheless, for thirteen months, that is what life was like. What makes it worse is that she could not see it coming. “My mother had outgrown her house and suggested that my sister and I raised our kids there together.” And it worked for awhile. A temp job gave her just enough income to cover her portion of the mortgage. However, when her sister decided she needed to move, LaTasha was quickly overcome with bills. “The mortgage was too much to cover alone. I didn’t just fall behind on the house payments, I was behind on everything.” In late 2013, the bank foreclosed on the family home, and LaTasha and her 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son had nowhere to go.

In beginning, they shuffled between family members, so the kids wouldn’t have to change schools. After three months of sharing bedrooms already occupied with others and sleeping on couches, she had enough. “It was too much on us and my relatives, so we started staying in extended stay hotels, a week at a time.” For ten months, she moved her children from hotel to hotel, based on the cheapest weekly rate she could find. Some were good, but there were others she’d rather forget. The constant moving was exhausting and she had nothing to show for her efforts. Then a conversation with her grandmother provided an opening.

“My grandmother lives in Alexian Court Senior Apartments. She really likes going to Guardian Angel’s self-sufficiency workshops, where she can learn about community resources and ways to make ends meet.” She also discovered that Guardian Angel offered rent and utility assistance for seniors and families. Her grandmother urged her to call.

“I really didn’t know if Guardian Angel could help. I didn’t have any credit history because the house I’d been paying on was in my mom’s name. No leasing company wanted to take a chance on me.” Then there were the utility bills. Without paying off her existing balances, no landlord would let her move in. Miraculously, LaTasha has been able to save up some money, but she was still short of her goal. Guardian Angel proposed a simple, but critical solution – the Agency would help her with first month’s rent if she would use some of her savings to cover the other housing expenses. She would even be eligible for utility assistance in the future if she ran into trouble catching up on other bills.

Now there was only the issue of convincing a landlord to rent to LaTasha. So, a Guardian Angel caseworker met with LaTasha and a leasing agent to be sure the arrangement would work. After hearing from the caseworker, the leasing agent agreed to rent an apartment to LaTasha. LaTasha left that meeting with a signed rental agreement. For the first time in over year, she moved into her own place in October 2014. The opening had become an opportunity.

With an apartment she can now afford, LaTasha has been catching up on other bills and focusing on building a career as a sales agent at a Forbes 500 company. Since October, LaTasha has used Guardian Angel’s Client-Choice Food Pantry and participated in its annual Christmas Program. Overall, things are really looking up.

“I can’t put a monetary value on the assistance Guardian Angel provided to me and my children. The help was life changing, it relieved a lot of stress and now – finally – we have a home of our own.” That’s when LaTasha’s eyes light up. “My kids are happy. They have been strong through everything – they even kept their grades up in school! It’s good to be able to give this to them.”

Rose Mary Remembers

Dear Sr. Annalee,

Congratulations on your sixtieth jubilee. I am enclosing a donation to the Endowment established in your honor, and in gratitude to the Daughters of Charity.

I would like to share with you my experiences with Guardian Angel Settlement.

As a child, my parents, brother and I lived at 1400th block of South Eleventh Street. Our home was across the alley from the Guardian Angel Settlement at Menard and Marion. There was a brick wall along the alley enclosing the property. In the corner of the wall was a small door where the sisters would put the trash cans out in the alley.

Every now and then the Sisters would come across the alley and bring us cartons of milk and crackers. Every year the sisters would take us to a room at Guardian Angel where they had all kinds of clothes and give us a winter coat. Our parents did the best they could, but we lived in extreme poverty, a slum type house, and with a mother who had serious mental health issues.

When my brother got to eighth grade, one of the sisters told him they had to get him out of the situation. They made arrangements for him to go to the Vincentian’s St. Vincent’s High School in Cape Girardeau. In the meantime a cousin of ours took me in during part of my high school years. Those two events that removed us from our situation showed both of us that there was a different world out there that we could never have otherwise experienced.

We learned that life could be very different for us, and we learned to aspire to a better life. My brother and I are both in our seventies now. He has a doctorate and is a clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest in Minnesota. I have a Masters degree in education and am beginning my forty-ninth year of teaching. We have both been very blessed, and are always thankful for the blessings we received along the way from the Sisters at the Guardian Angel.

God bless you, Sister Annalee, and thank you for all you do for the little ones. I hope they will remember the kindness of the Daughters of Charity as I still do today.

Sincerely,

Rose Mary

Renee – Homeless to Hopeful

From Homelessness to Hopefulness: Renee’s Story

Best-selling author, Sarah B.Breathnach once mused, “Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.” Renee D. can relate.

In January 2013, Renee and her family were not only behind in their utility payments, but facing eviction after the home she resided in was deemed unsafe and scheduled for condemnation. Having learned to take one situation at a time, Renee decided to focus on finding a way to keep her lights and gas on. So, she made an appointment at Guardian Angel Settlement Association after hearing about its utility assistance program.

It was not long before Nelson Perez, the caseworker on duty understood the gravity of Renee’s challenges. Not only was Renee behind in their utilities, but facing homelessness. Renee had also suffered in poor health and a series of operations, including four in 2012 alone, had left her unable to work. As a single mom, this made it difficult to give her three children, all of whom are under the age of seven, the care and home life she knew they deserved.

Getting Renee the help she needed was difficult at first. The relationship between herself and her landlord who is also a family member was tenuous. To complicate matters, one of her utility bills was in another relative’s name rather than the landlord. Nelson and other staff helped Renee communicate her struggles with local utility companies, which resulted in utility assistance through Ameren’s DollarMore Program.

With her outstanding utility bills take care of, Nelson also advocated on Renee’s behalf with local landlords and was able to help her secure an apartment as well as get her new utility services turned on in her own name. As a show of good faith, Renee used her tax return to pay several months advance rent. Guardian Angel then contacted Queen of All Saints (QAS), a local church group, which agreed to provide Renee with furniture for her new apartment and bus passes so she could travel to and from school. Guardian Angel and QAS continued their partnership in several ways to help Renee. Guardian Angel agreed to provide Renee with access to its other services like its client-choice food pantry, while QAS provided a monthly “utility stipend” confident in Renee’s plan for self-sufficiency.

“Guardian Angel’s efforts kept me afloat, which made it easier to get back in school. I graduated on the 28th of January (2014) with my Associates in Medical Coding from Everest College!” said Renee. Guardian Angel provided budget counseling throughout the year, so Renee could carefully manage her financial aid and make the most of the services offered by the agency and QAS. Looking back on it all, Renee recounts one more thing Guardian Angel Settlement Association gave her. “They gave me a sense of hope through all my life challenges.”

Exactly one year ago, Renee and her children faced certain homelessness, now she has stable and safe housing. Armed with her new degree, she has already landed an externship with the high probability of permanent employment upon completion.

A Place for Ericka

A Place for Ericka – and her Children To Grow!

Despite your best efforts, it can sometimes feel like you are faced with rejection at every turn. Ericka was certainly at that point. Employed in various entry-level food service positions, money was always tight and promotions never came her way. After giving birth to her first son, she realized she could not afford childcare on her salary. She was forced to rely on a patchwork of relationships to ensure care, but this put a strain on family and friends, who also worked or were struggling to make ends meet.

After the birth of her second child, she found a part-time job at a childcare center, where she would qualify for co-pay assistance. By then, she was also attending college, with hopes of becoming a licensed pharmacy technician. She graduated in 2010, but her hopes of beginning a better career stalled. Due to an ultra-competitive job market and lagging economy she couldn’t land a single job interview after several months of job searching. Desperate to support her young family, she dedicated herself to what she had known best – childcare. In the process of learning more about early childhood education and having a third child, she made a decision that would not only benefit her career, but her growing family as well.

The same year, she began looking for a new childcare center for her children, convinced there was a better environment for them to learn and develop. She made an appointment to visit Guardian Angel Settlement Association’s Childhood Center. “I was impressed. It felt warm.” In fact, Ericka’s visit prompted her to ask a staff person “Do you treat every family like this or am I special?” she recounted with a chuckle. Gloria Sewell, the Director of the Childhood Center remembers that visit. “I answered yes to both questions!” And so began a new relationship between Ericka, her family and Guardian Angel.

Ericka’s children enjoyed their experience so much that it was not long before she asked Gloria what she needed to do become a classroom teacher at the Childhood Center. She learned that Guardian Angel places a high premium on the Child Development Associate (CDA), a credential that ensures early childhood education professionals know the essentials for helping children develop mentally, socially, physically and intellectually. Ericka’s response to Gloria’s reply was direct and steady, “I’m going to earn that credential and then I want to work here.”

It took Ericka three years, but true to her word and always thinking about her financial stability and children’s future, she did it. She earned her CDA in April 2013 after clocking 480 hours of direct work with children and 120 formal hours of education, passing an advisor assessment and written exam. Later in the year, when Gloria told Ericka that a position had opened up at Guardian Angel, she wasted no time applying, and she got more than the interview she wanted – she got a new, higher paying job as a fulltime Lead Teacher at Guardian Angel’s Childhood Center, thanks to her own dedication and hard work.

“I’m finally at a place that I connect with, that shares the same values I have for myself and my children,” Ericka shares, “and I’m proud to say all my children will graduate from Guardian Angel’s early childhood education program.” In fact, Ericka already has her sights on another childcare credential and hopes to complete that program the same year her youngest will finish preschool at Guardian Angel, in 2018. Her children happy and learning, and in a career with upward mobility, Ericka has turned rejection into hope.

Ericka joins a select group of parents who have come to Guardian Angel Settlement Association’s Childhood Center over the years looking for quality, affordable childcare and eventually joined the teaching staff after discovering a passion for early childhood education an appreciation for the Agency’s approach to service.

Client Success Stories

Ericka – A Place For Ericka and Her Children

Renee – From Homeless to Hopeful

Je’ree – New Beginnings