Tiffany and her family left Puerto Rico in 2015 for a brighter future in the United States. For a while, they lived with her mother in New York, but employment opportunities were few and her mother’s place was too small for their family of five. Once they arrived in Massachusetts, they checked in with the Massachusetts Health and Human Services Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA). Unfortunately, the DTA wasn’t able to help them find a place to live.
The family was referred to Family Promise MetroWest, an ecumenical ministry supported by eight Lutheran congregations, including founding congregation Christ Lutheran, that helps homeless families through safe transitional shelter, meals, and supportive case management while they seek permanent housing. It was there Tiffany and her husband encountered the Steps to Success program, which is funded through a Wheat Ridge Ministries grant.
“I was a licensed practical nurse in Puerto Rico, but I wasn’t able to bring my certificate with me,” Tiffany says. “Family Promise helped us when we had nowhere to stay and then they supported me while I earned my certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate and passed the exam.”
According to Sue Crossley, Director of Family Promise, even when both parents were working, families were often living at poverty level, so she designed Steps to Success to help their families in shelter attain a higher earning level. Resources were available, Crossley says, but families really needed a place for one-on-one assistance with their career and education goals.
“When these parents come into shelter, they are so beaten up with just trying to get through the day that it’s difficult for them think about the long term,” Crossley says. “We get them dreaming about their careers and their future again.”
Steps to Success program coordinator Amanda Elkin meets with adult family members within two weeks of entering the shelter program. Once she gets to know them and understand their employability, education level, and future goals, they get right to work.
“We get very specific about setting goals so that we can make tangible progress from week to week,” Elkin says. These goals include preparing or updating resumes, getting a job interview outfit ready to go, and making sure they have a copy of their Social Security card. Families work with Elkin the entire time they are in shelter and have the option to continue on with Steps to Success once they are in the Family Promise transitional living program.
Crossley notes the Steps to Success budget includes the program coordinator’s salary, childcare costs while families are taking courses or working, gas money or public transportation fares to get to an interview or their job, and some education costs.
“Wheat Ridge donors need to know that their support is changing the lives of the people we serve,” Crossley says. “Our families are embraced by our community when they come into shelter—they know we care about them. And now the Steps to Success program is giving them hope for a better future for themselves and their children.”
The future seems much brighter for Tiffany and her family. With the help of Steps to Success, she attended Mass Bay Community College, studied for the CNA exam, and secured a job as a certified nurse at Mary Ann Morse Health Center in Natick, Massachusetts. Family Promise also supported Tiffany’s husband as he attained line cook certification and now he’s working in a hotel.
“Amanda and the Family Promise staff are like my family—they support me in everything,” Tiffany says.
Thanks to the generosity of Wheat Ridge donors, families in Massachusetts are breaking out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness and moving toward a brighter future.
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