From Strife to Stability: Jessica’s Story With We Connect

By: Contributor Last Updated: January 23, 2019

WeConnect-2019-1Imagine if you can, being a single mom of three kids under the age of 8, living in Michigan City and working in La Porte. You know how important it is to have a job to provide for your children and show them how to work hard to get to where you want to be in life.

This is Jessica. A few years ago, she left all her friends and family in Gary to move to Michigan City for better job opportunities. She doesn’t really know anyone else in Michigan City to help, for example, get the kids on and off the bus while she is at work. When one of the children gets sick, Jessica must make the nail-biting decision: Does she give her a Motrin and send her to school anyway, hoping that the nurse doesn’t call? Or does she call off and stay home to take care of the child, but get another disciplinary attendance point at the job she so desperately needs, putting her one step closer to getting fired?

Jessica took a part-time job making $9 per hour because that’s all she could manage with three young kids going to two different schools. She can see herself advancing there, but the drive to work after running the kids where they need to go in the morning is expensive and is making things difficult. Oh, and then there’s the fact that her apartment building had a bed-bug breakout and she had to throw away most of her belongings.

Jessica decides to do whatever she needs to do to make a change. Her plan: move to La Porte – closer to work and her kids’ schools, and away from bed bugs. She contacts the local housing authority to see how to begin the process of transferring her housing vouchers to a new place. They are only open while she is at work, so Jessica waits to visit the housing authority until her job sends her home on a slow day during the week. When she finally makes it there and starts the process for what should be a simple move 15 miles away, she encounters another road block. She learns at the last minute that it takes three months to process her vouchers to a new housing authority district, and her lease in Michigan City is up in a month and a half. Where will Jessica and the kids live during that gap? A shelter? Or should she stay where she is, risking more bed bugs and wasting money on the hour-long drive each day?

It just so happens, help is available. Jessica found We Connect, an Employer Resource Network® collaborative in the La Porte community that aims to help employers engage, empower, and retain employees, and help employees find and use the necessary resources to improve their lives.

We Connect, having strong, collaborative relationships with many other community partners, was able to connect Jessica with Center Township Trustee, Lisa Pierzakowski. Lisa and her team were able to jump in right away and not only help her transfer her housing vouchers, but find her several housing options in the area to choose from.

“If we hadn’t met Jessica on the day that we did, she would either be in a shelter or living in the same situation she so desperately wanted to get out of,” said Courtney Parthun, success coach at We Connect. “Jessica isn’t alone. There are so many people that just need an additional layer of support in order to move forward and better themselves.”

Jessica’s take on it is one of grateful appreciation. “We Connect is a blessing and came to me at the very time I needed them the most. I am so grateful for that,” she said. Courtney Parthun and Jackie Dermody at We Connect hear similar stories to Jessica’s every day. “The system is often intimidating to navigate for those not accustomed. Add to that the fact that these resources are generally available during normal business hours which is when they are working. It can be almost impossible for frontline, entry-level employees to obtain the critical community resources needed without it affecting their job. We believe we are the bridge to that gap - bringing applications and information to them at work or after work and doing a lot of the front-end work to mitigate the time they will be away from work. There are definite barriers that keep people from being able to realize their maximum potential because of the situations they are in,” Parthun said.

We Connect strives to be the link between keeping people working and helping them get the resources they need so that they can continue to work and realize their potential. Parthun said in most cases, the resources are out there, but people either don’t know where to turn to get them or are not able to get to them because they must work.

“We want to guide these people living crisis to crisis into more stable, sustainable lives by giving them the tools to learn, plan, communicate and follow through, which will allow them a better chance to advance economically. Whether that means furthering their education or skills, or simply finding a way to make it to work every day, we are working with people to help them put one foot in front of the other to move forward.”

Jessica recently sent a text updating us on her situation: “Thank you all so much for all of your hard work helping me and my children find a place. When you have support behind you, it gives you hope. Thank you for your resources. I signed my lease and will move in tomorrow. Thank you so much!”

Those are the texts that make it all worth it!

For more information about We Connect, visit https://www.weconnectworks.org/, email info@weconnectworks.org, or call 219-363-7293.