Stories of Support, Hope & Change

Disability from Arthritis Results in Job and Housing Loss for Local Man

Steve, age 57, came to the Beth-El Center through our outreach and engagement efforts during our Soup Kitchen lunch service. Steve was diagnosed with severe arthritis causing him to lose his job as a construction site manager. His situation snowballed and resulted in the loss of his housing and him going through all of his savings, forcing him to live in his vehicle.

After staying several nights in our No Freeze winter emergency shelter, Steve was admitted to our 90-day shelter program and began his journey toward reestablishing self sufficiency. With complex medical issues, Steve worked tirelessly to engage in his healthcare while working to obtain is Social Security Disability Income. He was awarded his Social Security Disability Income with the support and advocacy of our trained staff and housed within 30 days of his award.

"Coming from a situation of complete destitution to being able to obtain resources like Medicaid and food stamps and other benefits while in a safe, stable environment was such a blessing," said Steve. "Then, with Beth-El's help, I was able to focus on getting my disability benefits."

Outcomes such as this verify that our system is working and a robust outreach and engagement effort is critical to ensuring prioritized coordinated entry to shelter.

"Beth-El Center has an intensive program and talented and committed staff who are willing to facilitate in any way they can," according to Steve. "Beth El provided a profound blessing to my life's journey through the most challenging times."

Pregnant Woman Finds Shelter and Safety at
Beth-El Center

In March 2018, after being homeless for four months, a young woman who was eight months pregnant came to the Beth-El Center. Charlene* had been living in her own apartment but had to leave for the safety of her and her unborn child due to a domestic violence situation.

When Charlene came to the center she was scared and unsure of what was to come. Although wary about her future, she was determined and driven. In addition setting a goal of finding stable/safe housing, Charlene also needed to prepare to be a new mom.

Within in first month of being at the center she obtained all her necessary legal documentation (birth certificate, social security card) to be considered "document ready" for housing opportunities. Once her child was born in May, she was matched to the Rapid Re-Housing program and began searching for potential housing opportunities.

"I was used to being in my own home so adjusting to the structure at the Bethel Center was a little challenging at first. I can now say that it was all worth it," said Charlene.

Charlene utilized Nurturing Families Network for parenting classes and gained additional support from her domestic violence advocate. She was also able to complete a virtual mock interview with Aced My Interview at the Beth-El Center in order to prepare for employment.

"Without Beth-El Center's safe shelter, warm meals and intensive case management services advocating on the behalf of this family, Charlene and her infant daughter would have struggled to align services and resources to attain housing in just four months," says Beth-El Executive Director, Jenn Paradis,

According to Charlene, "My advice to others would be to take your time at the Beth-El Center to really think about what you want to succeed at and what you want to accomplish. Focus on those things. Four months at the Beth-El Center gave me the time to get important documents in order, a home for me and my daughter, and the ability and opportunity to go back to work."

Beth-El Center, Inc. is committed to ensuring the stability of each individual and family that utilizes our services and continues to work with other partnering agencies of the United Way of Milford and regional resources to support every client.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual

Veteran Faces Personal Loss, Illness and Homelessness Head On

Before coming to the Beth-El Center, Gust L., a 57-year-old veteran, was sleeping in abandoned houses in Connecticut/New York area for over a year.

Previously, Gust had been living with his mother who qualified for Section 8 Housing (for persons with disabilities) and was her full time caregiver. When Gust's mother passed away, he lost the housing and had nowhere to live.

As a resident of the Center, Gust worked on his goals, which consisted of obtaining housing, getting proper Connecticut identification and stabilizing his significant health ailments.

Through Beth-El's partnership with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven, Gust was able to focus on his medical issues and mental health with the daily support of VA's healthcare services.

Although Gust was fortunate enough to have income, he didn't have enough to secure permanent housing. With advocacy from his Beth-El Case Manager, Nicole Nickerson, Gust was accepted into the HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) program which offers voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans along with case management and clinical services.

According to Nickerson, "Once Gust obtained this voucher, he knew he was on the path to independence and he was really determined to find somewhere to live."

Gust worked very closely with all of his service providers to secure an apartment of his own in Milford. He is required to pay 30% of his income toward rent and his voucher covers the rest.

According to Gust, "It's only been five weeks since my departure from Beth-El, a Center that shall always remain at the core of the most wonderful gratitude."

It was a long journey to independence for Gust. The Beth-El Center staff is very proud to have supported this deserving veteran in overcoming his homelessness.

"I'm no longer homeless, living in a beautiful place, with wonderful neighbors," says Gust.

Veteran Restarts Her Life

Army veteran, Tamara S., age 46, resided at the Beth-El Center for six weeks at the end of 2017 when she had nowhere else to turn. After ending an unhealthy relationship, Tamara was temporarily staying with a family member. She then turned to the Beth-El Center for temporary housing and other supports.

According to Tamara, "When I went to Beth-El, I had nowhere else to go. The Beth-El Center gave me food, shelter and helped me think my life through and get myself together while I looked for a job and an apartment."

While at the Center, Tamara worked diligently to find housing and a part time job. Her Beth-El case manager, Margaret LeFever, helped her obtain a security deposit and the first two months of rent for her new apartment via Support Services for Veterans and Families.

According to Beth-El Center's Program and Facilities Director Jenn Paradis, "Tamara's tenacity and hard work helped in her ability to move out of the Shelter quickly. She was motivated, had a positive attitude, and knew what she needed to do. She was also very uplifting to other shelter residents."

Thanks to a grant that the Beth-El Center had received from the Norma F. Pfriem Foundation, the Center was able to provide Tamara with household items and supplies to set up her new permanent residence.

According to Tamara, "I always felt safe at Beth-El and the staff and other residents became like a family to me."

Helping a Homeless Family

Homeless families are a heartbreaking tragedy that we see too often. Sandra, a divorced mom, and her two children found themselves in dire circumstances. Due to loss of income, she was evicted from her apartment and staying with relatives under strained conditions. Sandra was in a grim situation when she was finally referred to the Beth-El Center.

Beth-El Center provided Sandra, her 14 year old daughter and 9 year old son with shelter, food and a safe environment. With limited income and English as her second language, Sandra had many obstacles to overcome in order to move forward.

Support, Resources and Services

During her extended stay at the Beth-El Center, our trained staff provided Sandra with ongoing guidance and direction. After such turmoil in her life, Sandra's challenges filled her with despair and little hope. She accepted the full assistance of her case manager, Deb Moffa, who helped her find her self-worth and set her on a path to lead a stable, independent life.

"My case manager at Beth-El told me not to give up. For my children, I had to keep fighting," says Sandra.

To start, Sandra secured benefits such as food stamps and child support. She worked with Goodwill's career center employment services where she learned how to create a resume and apply for jobs. She qualified for services with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services who offered Sandra further job search assistance.

Beth-El's food pantry provided Sandra and her family with food for her to cook with in the shelter kitchen. She also participated in the Grow! Truck, a mobile food pantry that gave her an allotment of fresh food and workshops that taught her and her family about nutrition and healthy eating.
During their stay at the Beth-El Center, Sandra's children were able to remain in their respective schools and were provided with transportation. The family engaged in therapy and support activities including dinner and discussion with Milford Youth and Family Services to get them through the difficulties they faced during this time of transition.

Sandra also utilized ESL services that provided assistance in learning the English language through Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut. With the help of a literacy tutor, she gained verbal and written skillsĀ  necessary to advocate for herself and her children, providing her the additional tools necessary to achieve her independence.

Moving Forward

Our staff assisted Sandra in her efforts to secure an apartment through permanent supportive housing where she's now on a path to long term stability for herself and her children. "When I had nowhere to go, Beth-El became my family," says Sandra. "Beth-El really saved me and my children."

When families have no one to turn to, the Beth-El Center offers a comprehensive solution to help turn around or restart their lives. We strive to keep families together in a confidential, safe and stable environment and offer the support and services to propel them forward. You can help by making a donation to Beth-El Center today!

A Young Mother and her Son: Learning to Live Independently

Programs and resources offered at the Beth-El Center can provide much needed educational, financial and nutritional benefits to residents like Elisandra. A 21 year old single mother of a toddler, Elisandra is eager to learn how to live independently. With few examples in her life to follow and learn from, she's using the resources at the Beth-El Center to help her pave the way to a stable life.

Elisandra and her 18-month old son Felix arrived at the Beth-El Center in June of 2016. She became homeless in November 2015 after being evicted from her apartment. When Elisandra arrived at the Beth-El Center, she had very little emotional or financial support from her family and was not attached to any community services.

With the assistance of her case manager, Craig Wainwright, Elisandra has laid out the goals she intends to achieve while at Beth-El. In addition to finding housing and stable child care, she opened a bank account and is learning how to budget and save money for the long term.

Elisandra is working diligently to get on her feet and is now employed full time on a production line at a local manufacturing company.

"With the obstacles that Elisandra has faced as a young, single mother with very little family support, she has shown strength, courage and a determination to succeed," says Craig. "She is a great mom and her and Felix have been a pleasure to have here at the Beth El Center."

Elisandra receives assistance from programs offered by the Beth-El Center including the bi-weekly GROW! Truck. In addition to participating in educational classes, Elisandra and her son are provided with fresh, nutritional food. The GROW! Truck, a partnership with the Connecticut Food Bank, is a customized, refrigerated vehicle with shelves loaded with items such as fruits vegetables, fish, meat and shelf-stable foods. Families enrolled in the program attend a nutrition or financial education workshop before boarding the truck to "shop" for food. With the Grow! Truck Elisandra is able to reduce her food bill each month, enabling her to save money and take care of other financial responsibilities.

According to Elisandra, "I appreciate all of the help that I have received from Beth El. It has been a good experience for me and my son."

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