The pandemic unleashed countless of circumstances to many of our residents and communities, who were probably already in distress, except now with full force. Our foundation is providing affordable housing, so when Claretian Associates was given the opportunity to provide rental assistance, we did not hesitate to move forward and support our community residents in need.
We knew many were struggling to keep a budget and find employment, so we added a component in order to participate in the rental assistance program. We partnered with the Center for Changing Lives (CCL) to provide financial awareness to our clients. Once our clients completed the workshops, in return the clients received their incentive of the rental assistance payment. Subsequently, Our Director of Programs, Tevonne Ellis, sprouted the idea of adding an education component. “We just didn’t want to give clients’ money for rental assistance, we wanted to provide them with tools and skillsets to help them navigate through their difficult time,” said Ms. Ellis.
CCL is a nonprofit financial opportunity center and a HUD approved housing counseling agency, located in the Logan Square neighborhood. The center helps with connecting people to resources that may not be available to them. CCL has three areas that they focus on: employment, finances and public resources. Clients earned their incentive by taking two workshops, employment, and financial coaching with CCL. The clients were able to meet with a CCL financial, employment coach, and have one-on-one sessions. In addition to the sessions, the clients had to take group workshops of their choice, such as financial and employment. Clients were taught about budgeting, credit, debt reduction, networking, and developing their pitch.
Linda Millan, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at CCL, regularly sees clients that require urgent resources, especially during the pandemic. ”You're not going to be thinking of home buying goals when you don’t have a job or you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, that’s reality. We understand that and people need resources right now to stay alive, to have a meal, to stay housed. It’s great we were able to provide funds and it's kind of like we opened up a window because if ever clients find themselves in a more stable place they can come back and know that these services are here,” said Ms. Millan. Many clients decided to stay enrolled and completed the program to receive their incentive of the rental assistance payment.
There was not a requirement for clients to continue after they met the required workshops. However, a few of our clients decided to increase their knowledge and enrolled in CCL's 24-week program, Office Careers Training Program, where clients get certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist in Microsoft Word and Excel.
We spoke with two of our clients whom we want to recognize as success stories because of their resilience of wanting to continue to improve their lives.
Melissa Reed a mother of four children, three of who are under the age of 18, was behind on her rent. Her children were at home because of eLearning and this did not allow her to work as before. Ms. Reed heard about the rental assistance program through her children's, Learn Charter School. Therefore, Ms. Reed decided to apply for the program.
The incentive of the rental assistance payment significantly helped Ms. Reed, “Yes! I am so grateful! Now with tax season, I am able to push myself forward, so I won’t be behind. It's good to be a-head than behind.” The rental assistance set Ms. Reed to be a head, and now she can focus on other bills with the money she is saving.
The coaching sessions Ms. Reed attended at CCL were financial, housing, and employment. While Ms. Reed was enrolled in the employment session, she was employed. However, since then she is unemployed and might be reaching out to her employment coach for assistance.
Ms. Reed would like to be a homeowner down the line. "My financial coach is helping me establish credit, making sure I establish a budget for the house, and following up with goals that I have set for myself," said Ms. Reed.
Ms. Reed decided to enroll in the CCL’s, Office Careers Training Program to get certified in Microsoft Word and Excel. "I think the program is amazing! I would recommend it to anyone who needs help with finances, employment, or would like to enroll in the six-month program. I am excited, to start the program. I'm going to pick up my laptop today," said Ms. Reed. She believes this will help her find jobs as a receptionist or any job that require Microsoft Office skills, to move her family forward.
Abiola Opadele was not working when she came across the announcement of rental assistance program at her children's school, Learn Charter. When Ms. Opadele read on the flier about the employment training, which caught her attention. She decided to pursue the opportunity and sign-up for the program.
Ms. Opadele attended the financial and employment coaching sessions. “For the financial session, my coach, helped me learn about my credit. There was a lot of things I did not know,” said Ms. Opadele. The financial sessions also helped Ms. Opedele learn about saving, so she can be a homeowner in the future.
The employment session for Ms. Opadele was beneficial to her because it taught her how to respond to in an interview. “She started the training like when you go for interview. That was very helpful to me. Sometimes there are things I don’t know. I came from Nigeria to this country, somethings are done differently here,” said Ms. Opadele.
Ms. Opadele enrolled in the CCL’s, Office Careers Training Program because “I believe in doing something for myself. If I can go ahead with this it gives me a better opportunity in life,” said Ms. Opadele. She believes that by enrolling in this program, she will be able to get a better job, earn more money, and life will better for her and her family. She hopes to pursue a career once she is certified in Microsoft Word and Excel.
"This is a good program, I benefited in a lot of ways. I was able to pay for my rent while learning as well," said Ms. Opadele. She received gift cards from CCL and Claretian Associates for groceries. Ms. Opadele expressed her children had a good Christmas because of the assistance she received.