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Pushing forward through challenges: Meet mental health clinician Mandy

August 16, 2023

“Way Finders helped me to rebuild my life,” said Mandy, a mental health clinician whose name has been changed to maintain confidentiality. “I grew up in Springfield, and after high school graduation everything was nice. And then my life took a turn. And I was met with multiple challenges, one right after another.” 

These include a failed marriage. Being a single mom. Having cancer. Experiencing homelessness. Going through treatment for substances. Living with extended family, facing overcrowding. Battling bouts of depression. 

“I raised my daughter, making sure she had everything she needed,” said Mandy, a 2023 graduate of Way Finders’ Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. “If it hadn’t been for Way Finders’ housing support, which kept me from having to go house to house to house… I hear a lot of stories where people are evicted. I was fortunate to have a landlord who kept me housed for many years.” 

Mandy credits the FSS program for challenging her to go back to school, in pursuit of obtaining the income needed to support her family. Both she and her daughter recently earned their master’s degrees in mental health. 

“We both went to school in Springfield, but we did not go to the same school,” Mandy laughed. “My daughter has a mind of her own, she went to American International College. I graduated from Cambridge College. She makes more money than I do, you know, she works fee for service. I’m still working on my licensing to be autonomous from my employer. So I can start my own business, that is a goal of mine. But that wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t have the support of completing my education.” 

A topic that Mandy and her daughter talk about often? Housing. 

“My daughter has a roommate. She’s like, ‘Mom, I can’t afford to live by myself!’ She’s saving to buy a house by herself. And my rent has gone up significantly, so I’m being challenged with that, too,” said Mandy, who has been with her employer for several years. “You can have an education, a formal education, and still not make enough money to support yourself. At least in the state of Massachusetts. The rents are just ridiculous. You really do need to have your own home to stay above water.” 

When Mandy shared her dream of homeownership with a colleague, it was quickly and unceremoniously shot down. 

“He was saying that, you know, due my age, I shouldn’t probably buy a house,” said Mandy, who recounted this exchange to FSS Advisor Evelyn Baez.  

“I remember that, Mandy!” said Evelyn. “And I was like, ‘Well, first of all, I’m a seasoned person, too. So I don’t like people to tell me that I cannot do something.’ I said to Mandy, ‘You’re a very educated person. Your job is to get oriented, do your research, and then you make the decision that’s best for you and your family. You might want to look into a condominium instead of a single-family house. Or maybe a two-family house, so you can rent one floor for income.’” 

Evelyn, who has worked with Mandy for several years, sees her job as a coach—and then some. 

“My job is, yes, to coach,” said Evelyn. “But it’s always to try to see things a little bit beyond the immediate challenge, based on my experience in working with other participants.” 

“If I ever told Evelyn that I didn’t understand something, and asked her to bring me to the point where I have a better understanding? She’d go above and beyond. I give her credit for that!” said Mandy. “Most people, they won’t take the time to explain. Evelyn did. And she always responded within 48 hours or less. And I know that we all have caseloads that are huger than us.” 

Time is on Mandy’s mind these days, as a constant. “Right now, I spend a lot of time with my mother. She’s 87, and they gave her four to six months to live. But she’s a trooper, she’s like, ‘I’m going to beat this cancer.’”  

When Mandy has more time to focus on her hopes for homeownership, she’ll have a good head start for the process, as she’s completed two of Way Finders’ workshops. 

“The Credit Success Workshop was good, I learned a lot about the FICO score versus other scores, I didn’t know that it really had much of a difference,” said Mandy. “And to be honest, I would like to take the First-time Homebuyer Workshop again. They covered so much information in such a small period of time. I took notes and I can always call and ask questions, but I’d like to know it like the back of my hand.” 

Mandy’s thirst for knowledge is second nature at this point. Her schedule for the past two years, as she finished up school, has revolved around studying, studying, and more studying.  

“I would like to have a life again, is what I’m saying,” said Mandy. “I like to go to a good movie, a play, a concert. The beach. I haven’t done these things in years. I still have a lot on my plate. Of course, I have to pay back my student loan, I owe a hundred thousand dollars in student debt. So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m not really thinking about buying a house, but I am thinking about buying a house, you know what I mean? I just want to get my license.”