Posted by Jon Federman
Latisha, a client of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support® (CERS), shared her story at the 2015 Women’s Breakfast on June 11. She told the audience about the help she received from JF&CS on her personal journey to stability and independence.
Latisha was already a JF&CS client when something terrible happened: she lost her apartment in a fire. Everything she owned was destroyed and she, her husband, and five children were left homeless.
At first, Latisha and her family had to sleep in their car. “That changed when Tracy Rich [supervisor for the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® Vulnerable Families Team at JF&CS] learned how we were living,” remarks Latisha. “She helped me get the Red Cross to find us a hotel room to stay in until we could find a new apartment. Tracy also connected me with Ellen [Jawitz, CERS Family Resource Coordinator], who worked with the welfare office on my behalf. Together, they helped me receive unemployment benefits and find temporary and then permanent housing for me and my family.”
After the fire, Tracy understood that Latisha and her family needed help immediately and Ellen was called upon to give Latisha leads and suggestions for housing and be her advocate. Latisha was specifically looking for Section 8 housing, but with such a large family subsidized apartments were not easy to find. Latisha made more than 500 phone calls that year, and Ellen and Tracy provided back up support several times, calling prospective landlords and housing agencies to try to expedite matters. “Tracy was there for me during all of this. When I found my new apartment, she was happy for me and I was happy for myself,” Latisha proclaimed.
In the meantime, Ellen and Tracy worked to find solutions to the immediate issues and needs that were facing the family. Tracy contacted Cradles to Crayons to get clothing for the younger children. Latisha's teenage daughter was too old for that service, so Ellen put out a notice on a list serve to get clothing donations for the teenager. They collected gently used household items, such as linens and dishes, to make the temporary apartment as comfortable as possible.
Tracy and Ellen then helped Latisha transition from the temporary apartment to her new home. Ellen contacted a local furniture bank that provided good quality, used furniture for the family. They coordinated with other JF&CS programs to provide movers and also helped to obtain other government benefits for her. Once she was settled into her new apartment, JF&CS assisted Latisha in applying for fuel assistance and utility discounts and assisted with issues related to the family's Transitional Aid benefits. Although Tracy and Ellen helped Latisha with the many tangible items she needed, they also never lost focus on supporting her as a mother of five children.
“Latisha could have been just another statistic - but instead she feels supported, cared for, and strengthened by [JF&CS] being creative and resourceful and working together across departments," says Tracy. "Any one of us could find ourselves in Latisha's situation. JF&CS never loses sight of the human being behind their needs and we try to weave together a supportive relationship helping clients with their concrete needs. It has been inspiring to see her stay focused on her children, keeping her family together despite such incredible disruption, and making such good use of our services," she adds.
“From the moment you meet her, you can feel Latisha’s nurturing self, alive spirit, and desire to grow,” echoes Peggy Kaufman, Director of CERS. “Throughout her journey, she has faced an unusual set of challenges with strength and grace, always keeping her infant and four older children her priority. She is an admirable mother, daughter, and community member.”
“Through everything, Tracy and Ellen and everyone at CERS were my support team,” Latisha explains. Tracy stood by me through everything and she and CERS will always be in my heart.”
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.