"Being homeless didn't feel good, but I will tell you what did feel good -- having some place warm to stay at night, having something to eat, being able to open a gift on Christmas morning. What Inspirica does is impactful"
-- Carlos, former Inspirica client, current Inspirica Young Professionals Member
A special note we received from a former client
Persistence is Key
For Joanna S., Inspirica was the light at the end of a dark tunnel she wasn’t sure she would ever exit. As her marriage deteriorated and the abuse inflicted on her by her then-husband worsened, Joanna packed up her few belongings (only a purse and a small bag) and her daughter, Leah (8), and sought refuge at her cousin’s place. Unfortunately, Joanna and Leah couldn’t live there for long. With nowhere else to turn, she turned to Inspirica.
When Joanna and Leah arrived at Inspirica’s door, they didn’t know what to expect. Maggie Manda, our Director of Family Housing, walked a very scared Joanna through the intake process, and, shortly thereafter, they were able to enter our Family Housing Program. At a time when she felt most alone and unsure, Inspirica’s staff was able to comfort her and begin the process of getting her headed back in the right direction.
“For the first time in a very long time, I felt safe and cared for.”
Joanna utilized our Jumpstart Career Program to its fullest extent. She regularly attended classes, practiced interviewing with our staff, and diligently listened to the advice she was offered. One lesson emphasized in the Jumpstart classes – “follow-up with every lead” – forever changed Joanna’s trajectory. Joanna took those words to heart and followed up every day for two weeks after an interview. Her persistence paid off. She was offered the job in a health care facility and will shortly celebrate her one-year anniversary with the organization!
In addition to the support she received with employment, Joanna also received significant help navigating the school system. Curtis Troeger, our Director of Children’s Services, helped Joanna advocate on behalf of Leah for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Leah was also enrolled in our after-school program where she was able to interact with her peers in a healthy, positive and productive environment while allowing Joanna to work without worry. We were even able to get Leah into camp in both the spring and summer so Joanna could continue working!
On May 2, 2017, Joanna and her daughter were able to move into their own apartment in Stamford.
She credits the patience and hard work of Missie Heagney, her case manager, the advocacy of the Children’s Services Program, and the amazing work of the entire Jumpstart Employment Program.
“I am thankful for the second chance Inspirica gave us”
Terrance, a single father of two girls, was balancing two part-time jobs so he could care for Shanice and Shea (ages 8 and 9). He made just enough to meet his family’s living expenses. Then he lost one of his jobs. With nowhere to turn, he faced an agonizing reality: he could no longer provide for his children or put a roof over their heads.
It’s a nightmare scenario more and more working families in our community face each day. Fortunately, Terrance called Inspirica.
“I am thankful for the second chance Inspirica gave us.” – Terrance
We were able to help Terrance and his children. When they arrived at Inspirica, Shanice and Shea were immediately enrolled in our Children’s Services and afterschool program where they received critical academic, social, emotional and developmental support. Despite the trauma of being homeless, they thrived.
So did Terrance. He enrolled in our Jumpstart Career Program where he learned critical work skills. Recognizing his new ability, his supervisors at work offered him a full-time position with an increase in salary. Today, he and the girls are living in their own apartment in Stamford!
"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that from my lowest point sleeping in a car I could live in – and afford – a place as nice as this."
In the midst of the Great Recession, Bruce R. found himself some place he never thought he would be – jobless and eventually, homeless. Bruce was college-educated and held a steady job as an IT consultant at UBS when the layoffs began. He watched as one by one, his coworkers were let go, and each day became a guessing game of whether he would remain employed. Preparing to be laid off, Bruce began to look elsewhere for a job, yet nowhere was hiring. When he was eventually laid off, Bruce continued his search for employment but had only his savings to fall back on for the time being.
As he watched his savings disappear, Bruce was no longer able to afford his apartment, packed most of his belongings into a storage unit, and put his name on the wait list at a homeless shelter. In the interim, Bruce’s new residence was his car, a makeshift home he light-heartedly referred to as Hotel Honda.
When it seemed as though he had hit rock bottom, we were able to offer Bruce a room at Metcalf House, one of our permanent supportive housing facilities, and eventually a one-bedroom apartment at 992 Summer Street, our 48-unit deeply affordable housing facility for seniors ages 55+.
In partnership with Charter Oak Communities, we have responded to a growing demand for affordable housing for seniors – one of the fastest groups falling into homelessness. The building features 48 units of deeply affordable housing for adults aged 55 and older. The building has 40 one-bedroom apartments and 8 studio apartments. Each unit is equipped with brand new appliances, spacious rooms and high-end safety features.
Located in the heart of downtown Stamford, Summer Place offers seniors access to our Franklin Commons campus which is home to a wide array of services, including a health center and dental clinic. The building’s proximity to our Family Housing Program, Jumpstart Career Services Program, and Early Childhood & Parenting Program provides an opportunity for our seniors next door to become active as a “Senior Corps” group of volunteers.
We had the opportunity to speak with Bruce as he moved into Summer Place. “I never predicted that I would be homeless,” he explained. “And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that from my lowest point sleeping in a car I could live in – and afford – a place as nice as this! I am grateful to Inspirica for giving me and so many others like myself this opportunity and such a nice place to call home.”
Finding Happiness & Home
Keri is a single mother of Patrick, age 4. She grew up in a rough neighborhood, lacked a high school degree, and had ongoing issues with authority. Unemployed and moving from one bad situation to the next, her future was not headed in a positive direction.
“I felt like I was sinking”… Keri
Helping Keri wasn’t easy. She was angry and filled with a lifetime of self-doubt. After weeks of counseling she began to challenge herself. She enrolled in our Jumpstart Career Program, showing particular interest in our home health aide vocational training program. By the time she completed the 12-course curriculum, you could scarcely recognize the person who had come to us dejected and broken.
The same was true for Patrick. We enrolled him in our Early Childhood & Parenting Program where he received the critical early childhood development and pre-literacy skills necessary for children his age. The issues that plagued Keri in her early development will not afflict Patrick, allowing him to break the cycle of homelessness.
Keri is now a full-time Home Health Aide. She and Patrick are searching for a home. Because of Inspirica, we were able to make an everlasting change in their lives and Patrick and Keri will soon be home.
"Inspirica helped me save the lives of my children"
FL (34) is a single mother of five children. Life has never been easy for her. A victim of repeated sexual abuse at age 13, she had two children before she was 15. Eventually, she escaped, motivated by one factor: she wanted a life for her children that was different than hers.
Eventually, she ended up in New York where she worked odd jobs. She met her future husband, married, but, again, was a victim of domestic violence. And again, she was forced to escape. Living on her own, she was able to manage her family’s expenses until her husband stopped paying required child support. It wasn’t long before she was evicted from her apartment.
Although seemingly impossible, things got worse from there. Two of her children developed serious medical conditions. On a cold winter night when things seemed especially bleak her luck began to change. She found herself at Stamford’s only Overnight Warming Center, located at Inspirica. From there, she was able to access Inspirica’s Family Housing Program where she and her five children found safety.
During her time at Inspirica, FL and her family received the help and support they needed, including medical care for her children. With the kids well taken care of in our Children’s Services programs, FL was able to focus on furthering her education, including earning a Home Health Aide certificate through our Jumpstart Career Program. Her hard work and determination helped her to achieve the stable and dignified life she always dreamed she and her children might have. A short time later, FL received the keys to her own apartment. She and her children don’t have the words to express how they feel. She keeps saying, “Inspirica helped me save the lives of my children.”
Due to a family crisis, at a very young age Ashley had the responsibility of caring for her four younger brothers. Managing a household while still attending Westhill High School proved to be a challenge. In caring for everyone else she quickly lost herself. She was often late for school because she was busy making sure her brothers made it to their school on time. Ashley's grades began to suffer and she found herself getting into trouble.
Her high school sweetheart was a support system. But Ashley quickly became dependent on him for everything in life, further losing her own identity. At age 22 she and her boyfriend had a child. Shortly after, their relationship began to spiral downward. Ashley felt hopeless, lost her job . . . and her enthusiasm for life.
She knew she needed to escape her unhealthy relationship, but had nowhere to go. Ashley moved into Inspirica’s Women’s Housing Program while her ex agreed to care for their son. Through our Jumpstart Employment Program, she found a full-time job working as a concierge at a residential building in Stamford. Even after she became employed, our employment specialists continued to work with Ashley in our Wage Growth program, updating her resume and helping her find a second part-time job as a cashier so that she could save for an apartment.
With a steady income in place, Inspirica’s Housing and Retention teams got to work. They assisted Ashley with creating a monthly budget and savings plan. Our housing specialists found her a studio apartment in downtown Stamford that she could afford. Ashley began to see the light at the end of the tunnel the day she moved in. She has continued to work hard on organizing her life, applying the time management skills she learned in our Jumpstart Education Program and arranging her work schedule so that she has two days off per week to spend with her son. To ensure he receives all the foundational skills he needs, she takes him to the special children’s programming offered for his age group at the local library.
Ashley is grateful to be able to provide for herself and son. She particularly enjoys her job as a concierge because she feels she is helping people -- something she recognizes Inspirica did for her.
A Bright Future
When Mina came to Inspirica she was a nine-year-old girl . . . in second grade. She was unable to read, write, or solve simple math problems. Inspirica staff would attempt to work with her, but she would put her head on her desk, cry, and say, “I can’t do it! I’m stupid!” She was a very frustrated young lady who wanted to learn.
To help Mina attain academic and personal confidence, Inspirica’s Children’s Services Department worked closely with Child Guidance Centers (CGC), Stamford Public Schools, and Mina’s mother to secure on-going psychological support and a PPT and subsequent IEP from Stamford Public Schools. Each day she also attended Inspirica’s After School Program where she received critical support from Special Education teachers from her district school, Inspirica’s in-house certified teacher and an army of volunteers.
Today, Mina can read with fluency and solve math problems that vexed her a year ago.
The continuum of care afforded to Mina through Inspirica has allowed her to continue to progress with seamless support between school and after-school programs; she is also approaching grade-level proficiency in all of her subjects.
Shirley came to Inspirica’s Family Housing Program with her youngest daughter after a frightening experience. “I was living in Norwalk and my oldest daughter was raped in my apartment. I got sick living there so I took what I could carry and I left… Coming into this program I was scared. I couldn’t believe I was moving into a shelter. I thought ‘Where did I go wrong? What did I do to end up here?’”
The road to success wasn’t easy for Shirley as new obstacles arose. While she was a resident in our Family Housing Program she lost her mother.
Shirley was able to channel her grief into Inspirica’s Culinary Arts program. With guidance from staff, she was able to keep her mind occupied. Shirley also enrolled in the Jumpstart Education workshop series, which focuses on giving participants the tools necessary to obtain employment and be successful in the workplace. She became a leader in the class and her motivation to find employment was reignited.
Shirley found a seasonal retail job near the holidays. After proving herself, the store offered her a full-time, permanent position. Although this was not the job she envisioned having at that stage in her life, it allowed her to become financially stable enough to move out into her own apartment with her daughter.
Through Inspirica’s Job & Housing Retention program, Shirley has stayed in touch with us. She has a new job she loves as an Office Manager and has maintained her apartment for over a year.
When Tanya came to Inspirica she had lost everything . . . her home, car and job. We accepted her and her children into our Family Housing Program. Once safe in our shelter, she took full advantage of everything we offer, including our Jumpstart Career Program, which taught her the skills she needed to get a job. “I had never stayed at a shelter like Inspirica, a place where they take the time to make sure all of your needs are met,” said Tanya.
Tanya eventually left Inspirica, but that's not the end of the story...
Shortly after moving out, she found a temporary job at a social service agency. Within two weeks, she was offered a full-time position, assisting women who were in the very same situation she was only weeks earlier: homeless and unemployed.
Tanya now oversees three offices, manages all of the new intakes, and conducts the agency’s job readiness program. Tanya’s transition has come full circle.
A Safe Space . . . and More
Flore C. never expected her marriage to end as it did. When she separated from her husband, she had a job, but nowhere to live.
She still remembers how she felt when she found Inspirica. Having a safe place to stay was only part of the equation; the stability our housing provided also allowed her to continue to work.
Inspirica staff worked closely with Flore on her confidence and budget. We also helped her financially through our Housing Stability Fund, which provides limited financial support to young mothers and their children so they can move back into the community.
With a modest temporary stipend from the Fund and the help of our Housing Coordinator, Flore and her three children were able to find housing they could afford in Norwalk.
Flore and her family have now successfully transitioned back into permanent housing where they have found the stabilty and safety they sought.
"Inspirica gave me the chance to start my life all over again"
JZ, age 53 and living with HIV/AIDS, entered McKinney House after having been previously discharged from the program due to alcohol abuse. Dually diagnosed with a mental health and a history of addiction, she faced multiple barriers to exiting homelessness.
With limited options before her, we readmitted her to the program and convinced her to enter a 3-month outpatient program in Norwalk. While completing the program, she volunteered with the Mid-Fairfield AIDS Project, assisting at the front desk and soliciting donations for its annual gala.
"My time at McKinney House was used wisely and enabled me to complete outpatient treatment while at the same time work on myself emotionally. "
With Inspirica's help, JZ applied for and received a housing voucher to secure permanent housing. McKinney House staff and our Housing Coordinator then helped her secure an apartment in Norwalk. When she walked through the front door, it was the first time she had her own apartment in 20 years!