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.