During our Giving Hope event on October 21, 2021, FamilyForward Program Manager Sarah Harte interviewed “M,” a recent graduate from our two-year program. In the interview below, M shares how she overcame challenges she was facing as a single parent with a low income and a child with special needs. M worked hard to improve her circumstances and create a better life for her family, and is grateful for the safety net provided by FamilyForward (formerly, Faith Community Homes).
Sarah Harte (SH): M, thanks for volunteering to share your story with us. Can you tell us a little about your background, and the circumstances in your life that led you to apply to Faith Community Homes [now known as FamilyForward] in 2019?
M: Thank you very much for having me. I came to FCH in 2019 due to a series of circumstances. I have a son who has autism, and I’m also a single parent. I was in a co-housing situation that just did not work out for my son at all, or for me. And actually, at the last minute, I was left pretty much homeless.
SH: When I met you, you were living with your son in a motel. Can you talk about what happened when you were accepted into the Faith Community Homes program?
M: When FCH accepted me, the first thing to do was to get us out of the motel. For my son, with his issues with autism, living in one room was just not feasible. So the biggest thing was to get us stable housing. Which we did. I met up some people from FCH, we went, and I found an apartment. FCH paid for the security deposit which was extremely essential to me getting out of that motel. Because it’s really hard to come up with a security deposit to get out of a motel when that is all you can afford.
SH: And I want to mention here that you were working this whole time.
M: Oh yeah, it’s not like I didn’t have a job or I wasn’t working. I think sometimes people don’t realize you don’t have to be destitute, down and out, living on lower Wacker Drive to be in a hard position. Just a few circumstances can completely turn your whole world upside down. I did have a job, but I couldn’t make as much because other things were going on.
SH: OK, so after you got into your apartment, out of the motel, you had your own kitchen, you could cook food that worked for your son’s special diet. Then you were introduced to your mentors. Can you talk about what happened with your mentors?
M: When I first met my mentors, and let me just say, that this was a very crucial part for me, in this program. The two biggest parts were getting me housing, so I could get that stress off my back, because my son and I needed somewhere to live. Every child deserves to live in peace. And then second, having my mentors was huge because they’re not family, but they’re on my side. And they were there to support me and give me guidance when I needed it. And they were there to uplift me and help me see things, work with me on the areas I needed to work on. That was a huge part of it. I don’t think I would have had as much growth and this would have meant as much, nor would I have done as well, I don’t think, if I hadn’t had somebody there as mentors. Anybody can throw a check at you and help you pay your rent. But who’s really going to give you the tools to help you go forward and keep going forward?
SH: Can you mention what else you accomplished during your time with Faith Community Homes?
M: I also did sign up for grad school, to go back to school. By going back to school, I was able to further my career. I’m going to take the board exam to become board certified (in my field) next year.
SH: Once you finish that credential, your earning potential will increase even more.
M: Yes, even more.
SH: And I wanted to point out that you maintained employment all through the pandemic. You have never been unemployed, despite your childcare constraints.
M: Yes, because, you know, with children with special needs, and especially autism, sometimes it’s a mixed bag. You don’t know what their needs will be. You have to have caretakers that know what they’re doing, that can be trained and be proficient, that show up. I was able to focus on all those things during this whole time, and I do feel extremely blessed. And again, if FCH hadn’t given me the safety net, I couldn’t have done any of this.
SH: I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that when you applied to our program you had no money in the bank.
SH: Your credit score had really taken a hit.
SH: By the time you finished our program, you had money in the bank.
SH: You worked hard to pay off some of those old bills, and you brought your credit score up quite a bit.
M: And it’s still climbing!
SH: M, congratulations on everything that YOU accomplished. Faith Community Homes gave you a little bit of foundation, but YOU did all the hard work. You set the goals and you reached all those goals. So congratulations, and thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.
M: Thank you so much for having me. And again, I just want to say thank you to FCH. Again, I just needed a little bit of help to go forward, and I got more than I thought I would ever get. And I will never forget everything that they did for me. Thank you.