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Turning the corner on housing instability, finding peace and possibilities

July 26, 2023

What does it feel like to turn the corner on housing instability? After years of constant moving—among family, friends, shelter—and trying to do the right things, always, to keep from being asked to leave. What does it feel like to be free of that weight?

“I’m doing well, feeling good! Just feeling more at peace with everything, like I can finally put down my coat, take off my shoes. We finally have somewhere to rely on, not someone,” said Amanda, a participant of Employment Support Services who moved into a Way Finders’ residential resource center in August 2022. “I mean, I still have worries, that’s just natural for me. But they’re lighter.”

On Amanda’s 23rd birthday this past June, she signed the lease on a low-income two-bedroom townhouse in Springfield. She’s using HomeBASE funds—awarded by the state to help families move on from emergency shelter assistance—toward furniture. A week later, she moved in with her five-year-old daughter, Eli. It was the first time the two were to sleep apart.

“She was like, ‘Mommy, I don’t want my own room.’ And I was like, ‘I love you, Eli, and I’ll be there for you until you go to sleep. But I can’t wait to get my own room!’” said Amanda, who first moved into shelter at age 18. “That first night, she loved her room so much, she was snoring so loud.”

Another room they love is the kitchen, where they start each day, enjoying the peace and quiet, praying. 

“That feeling of sitting at our kitchen table, not worried about who needs to sit where or who’s cooking, it’s good,” said Amanda, who is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education at Grand Canyon University. “It’s where we chat, laugh. Just be goofy.”

Such pastimes are what age five—an intense period of curiosity, emerging identity, and growth—is all about. But when Amanda was age five, she lost the most important person in her life, her mother Yvette, who adopted Amanda at birth.

“I remember almost everything about my mother, from her hair to the way she took care of me and my brother with all her heart. She had a doctorate in education, she was very successful. And, fun fact, she was a nun,” said Amanda. “I remember her reading us the book ‘Love You Forever,’ which was about how the mother gets older but will always love her child. I didn’t realize it then, but she was preparing us for her passing. She passed away from MS.”

Amanda and her brother then went to live in Springfield’s Sixteen Acres with a former babysitter. Growing up, they had everything they needed, in terms of resources. 

“We never had to struggle in that sense,” said Amanda. “But the emotional support, of being a family, of really feeling like I belonged, I didn’t have that. When I got pregnant in high school, my mindset was, ‘I have to get out of here.’ I wanted to be on my own. I’m open to sharing my story because I think different people can relate to it. Because, my story, I went through a lot.”

Her story—and her drive—resonated with Job Developer Carmela Albano, who began working with Amanda in December 2022. “I’m proud of Amanda, she’s a great gal! From the start, I just knew that she was ready to rock and roll. And our program has helped her get where she needs to be.”

Beyond completing Way Finders’ Work Readiness Certificate program and Credit Success Workshop, Amanda completed a digital marketing course and, in April 2023, enrolled in Grand Canyon University. 

“I’d never thought about being a teacher until recently, it came into my heart from being around children. My mother was a teacher, I feel like she’s motivating me. Like I want to go all the way, get a doctorate, too,” said Amanda. “My graduation date is October 2027. I currently have a 4.0, I think that’s good to mention. What’s most important to me now is finishing school, then getting a job that will afford me the chance to go for a house.”

Amanda’s more immediate goals—settling into her new place, helping Eli start kindergarten, landing a paraprofessional job—feel within reach. 

“Amanda doesn’t ask for anything,” said Carmela. “But when she talked about her computer breaking, and having to borrow one from a friend, I said, ‘We’ll give you laptop! You don’t need to struggle!’ I also knew transportation was a barrier, and I wanted to help her with that. Since her daughter’s day care doesn’t offer it, she only has a small window of time to work, and jobs like that are impossible to find.”

Way Finders first helped Amanda pay her excise tax and renew her license—then provided her assistance to purchase a car. 

“It’s really nice, it’s a 2007 Nissan Altima,” said Amanda, who enjoys writing, dancing, and exploring nature. “Having a car definitely opens up opportunities for me. To go places that are free to do fun stuff, to go to Walmart and stretch my food budget, to go to church, my appointments.”

“I loved when Amanda called me to tell me all the good news, about the townhouse, her grades, how the car is working out great!” said Carmela. “It’s like, ‘I did something, I’m part of that.’”

“I’m used to everything not happening the way I want it to,” said Amanda. “But in working with Carmela, she kind of organizes the steps, makes it feel possible, helps me find resources. Kind of taking it out of my head and putting it in a place where I can follow through with it. Thank you, Carmela, for looking out for me, encouraging me, checking up on me. That means a lot.”