Like many of us, Anissa and her two daughters once lived without fear of where they were going to lay their head each evening. Then a bad break up with her boyfriend caused him to move out, and Anissa, now solely in charge of rent and utilities, found herself unable to pay the bills. Despite working a full-time job, her monthly expenses became too much to bare alone. Daycare, food, rent, gas… which one could she let slide until the next month?
Anissa weighed her options and knew she needed to keep her job, which meant her children had to stay in daycare – regardless of how expensive it was. So, she began packing up her home, putting the most important items in storage. Tirelessly searching for housing resources to avoid the inevitable, Anissa attempted to work out payment arrangements with her landlord. But in the end, she was evicted.
Anissa’s employer was empathetic when she shared about her critical situation and even gave Anissa some time to get some issues worked out at home. But with all the phone calls Anissa had to make, desperately trying to find available resources and schedule appointments, her personal turmoil started impacting her professionally, and she lost her job.
In just a blink of an eye, Anissa’s barriers to getting back to the life she once knew tripled, as she was now homeless, unemployed and without affordable childcare.
After reluctantly calling the Salvation Army, Anissa was able to find a place for her and her daughters to lay their heads at night and eventually became eligible for their shelter program.
As she began her job hunt, Anissa found it difficult to find employment again. She never had a problem securing jobs in the past and couldn’t understand why this time was different. It wasn’t until an employer made her aware of an assault charge appearing on her background check that Anissa realized the problem. One too many late night altercations with her children’s father left her unable to find employment.
Anissa felt overwhelmed and at her wit’s end. This is not the life she planned for her and her girls. She had goals of being a successful entrepreneur. Her dreams and desires at that moment seemed unattainable, as she watched her life spiral out of control. She knew she had to do something, but she had no idea what.
One day she heard a few moms at the shelter talking about a program that helped people find employment, even if you had a criminal history. After learning the name of the program and getting a flyer, she called, hoping she would finally find an open door.
That next Monday, Anissa sat in on a class at StepUp Ministry. She found herself skeptical and intrigued as she was told that StepUp would help her, but she had to be willing to help herself.
As she continued to engage with StepUp, Anissa learned that if she gave 50%, the StepUp team would match it. They were sincere and provided her the tools she needed to discuss her current situation with interviewers. Anissa eventually landed a full-time temporary job! She then entered the StepUp Life Skills program where she began relationships with two invaluable people: her case manager and her mentor. With their guidance, Anissa stepped out in faith, with confidence, finding a place for her and her daughters to stay. Her daughters even received their own case manager who assisted them with their unique, immediate needs.
Anissa’s journey though the Life Skills program didn’t make her life fall into place. She continued to deal with struggles and challenges – even being threatened with another eviction. But through perfect attendance in her 48-week class and the support of her new family at StepUp, Anissa was able to maintain a savings account and continue to pay her rent, even when her temporary job ended and she had to find a new job.
If you spoke to Anissa today, she would tell you her life has not been easy, and today it isn’t any easier. But she has learned a lot over the last 24 months, and she manages her life differently now than she did three years ago. Issues that used to give her anxiety – losing a job, being late on a bill – don’t affect her the same way. Her “tool belt” is full, and she knows what tool to use when the stresses of life begin to unfold.
This is not just Anissa’s story. This is the story of so many mothers in our community. And it doesn’t end seamlessly. Anissa is still a pay check away from experiencing homelessness. Some mothers in our community will not be able to be as confident and resourceful as Anissa. How will our community come alongside them to help them imagine and attain a brighter future?
– Angela Coleman, Life Skills & Employment Director, StepUp Ministry