As Liza and her three dogs sat in her car, she knew they’d be spending another night there. It wasn’t a situation she ever thought she’d be in, but now, parking lots were the only home she had. Liza didn’t have a job to support herself, and even with a background in IT, she was having a lot of trouble finding a job. So she slept wherever felt safe, hoping she’d find the answer someday.
It would come much sooner than she expected. When working with people in situations like Liza’s, the Y provides personalized support, because, as Branch Executive Director Dan Brennock notes, “Every individual we serve has different needs, different challenges. As much as people can prepare for their worst case scenario, both mentally and financially, no one really thinks about what being homeless really means until they’re in it. When they reach out or we connect with them, we want to know what’s unique about their situation so we can best convene the services that will get them on their feet as quickly as possible.”
This last ability helps the Hockomock YMCA stand out. Like United Way, they act as a central connection point for community service providers, leaders, and officials. Their network of partnerships allows them to bring together resources and react quickly to urgent needs like Liza’s. This network is something Dan and the Y are proud to have. “When we see that someone is experiencing hardship, we have a prime seat at the table when it comes to finding a solution. Even if we can’t solve the problem directly, we know who to call, how they can help, and generally how we’ll need to pivot to find the best ending for those we serve.
Building a Solution
Liza quickly discovered how dedicated the Y was helping her with getting back on her feet she could work at finding a home. In less than an hour after hearing about her struggles, staff from multiple departments at the Y stepped up. One sat down with her to learn exactly what kind of help she needed. Another group contacted a local State Representative to connect them with organizations that could provide Liza with food and shelter. They also discussed Liza’s professional background and how and where she’d been looking for work.
Next, Liza’s Wellness Coach and the YMCA’s scholarship administrator worked to find a shelter Liza could move into immediately. After several hours on the phone, staff were able to set her up with a place to stay, though there was one unfortunate stipulation: they couldn’t take all of her pets. She could take her service animals with her, but she had a puppy named Jimmy that she kept as a pet, and he would need to find a foster home while she got back on her feet. Luckily, one of Liza’s family members agreed to take Jimmy for a little while.
Y staff also put Liza in touch with a local food pantry so she could finally have a square meal before moving into the shelter. Then, as one last step, the Y froze Liza’s membership deductions so she could focus on becoming stable, though her membership would never have stopped the Hockomock YMCA from offering her the support it did. Her connections to staff simply made it easier for them to discover the challenges she was facing.
Though only 12 hours had passed, Y staff had been able to help Liza settle safely in shelter, get a quality meal, find a safe place for her dog, and give her peace of mind that there was a solid support structure behind her.
On Her Way to Finding a HOme
Liza continued attending her DPP classes while she looked for work and permanent housing, and her instructor ensured she was both physically and emotionally healthy. She took a big first step when she attended a job fair at a hotel near the Y, and got the job then and there.
Liza originally turned to the YMCA on December 1. It took just 36 hours to get her situated so she could start rebuilding her life. She then spent her time acclimating to shelter life and preparing to head back out into the community. She got her job on January 1, putting herself squarely on the road to stability.