When Easter Seals Greater HoustonHousing and Financial Coach Carmen Phillips first met “C”, she was transitioning out of homelessness and back into her first apartment. Due to her disability and low wages, C has always needed a roommate in order to afford housing. Unfortunately, depending on a roommate to fulfill their half of the obligations proved detrimental to C’s financial stability and left her homeless yet again. After several months of homelessness, she eventually managed to find a new roommate she had met at the local shelter and they got a new apartment. Despite some of C’s objections about saving money, she and Carmen continued to work together to build up her savings account just in case she found herself in a similar position in the future. Because she receives disability and works part-time, it was hard for her to rationalize why she needed so much money in her savings account, since her disability was guaranteed. Well, fast-forward to COVID-19. Unfortunately, C was laid off from her part-time job and the very same month, her disability benefits were suspended due to some type of error regarding her wages. She was now stuck in an apartment lease with zero income. Fortunately, she had her savings to fall back on until her disability benefits were re-instated. Throughout the pandemic, with the help of her stimulus checks and her unemployment, C managed to pay her rent, pay off her credit cards and build her savings up to $17,000.
However, shortly thereafter, C’s roommate left unexpectedly, leaving her stranded with a 2 bedroom apartment and bills to pay. Fortunately, she had her savings account and decided to make a drastic move. She took a portion of her savings and purchased a 5th Wheel Travel Trailer in order to have a home of her own. C now owns her own place, does not have to depend on a roommate to split housing costs, pays less renting her RV spot than her apartment and has drastically lowered her electric bill, all while retaining $5,000 in her savings account. C hopes to eventually save up her cash and purchase a small lot in order to completely eliminate paying monthly rent to anyone.
Lou is a Veteran who has been working on reducing chronic stress in his life with Easter Seals Greater Houston’sService Member, Veteran and Military-Connected Families Program. After making lots of progress in therapy, COVID-19 presented new challenges and removed some of his coping strategies. He was no longer able to attend therapeutic horsemanship at Reigning Strength, or volunteer to keep himself meaningfully occupied. Visits with neighbors and friends were suspended during the stay-at-home orders.
During a telehealth session with his psychologist, Amy Harkins, Ph.D. from Easter Seals Greater Houston, Lou decided on a plan to stop worry by snapping a few photos with his old camera. After one week, he reported that photography was as good for his state of mind as breathing exercises, but not as good as spending time with his favorite horse, Iceman. With photography, he learned he can shut out other thoughts and he said “it calms me down.” He found himself surprised that he could be so interested looking at a bug on a rose, something that he normally would not have noticed. Photography reminds him that there are other things happening in the world besides his own concerns and some of those things are “pretty darn good.” Lou is thinking about using photography as a bridge back to older hobbies of painting and drawing. When asked what he sees when he looks out the window, he explained “I used to only see clouds. Now I am seeing the sun poking through those clouds.”
My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate.
During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.
I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future.
On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.
Usually I write about a person who was helped by the services I provide through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program. This time I’m going to do that with a twist, so let me tell you the story. Years ago I met a Marine and after this initial meeting our paths diverged for a long time. About a year ago, our paths crossed again at a Marine Corps birthday celebration in Houston and I learned he was a County Veterans Service Officer. After catching up we discovered that we both worked in the Veteran community to reduce the stigma around mental health, providing services to Veterans and their family members. Though our services are different, they both aim to end the suffering in silence of so many Veterans. Over this year, we have discussed all these things and one thing was clear-we have the same mission. A partnership was born that extends to the many Veterans we meet each week.
You might think this is just a story about two people in the community working together to help Veterans, but it isn’t. Yes, we benefit from the collaboration because of the confidence and trust that is shared between us. I know he will work hard and go the extra mile to help those I refer to him. He knows this of me too. Yet, the most important part of our meeting is how our complimentary services have benefited those that have served and their families. He most often refers individuals who have suffered in silence for years due to experiences from their service. Most often it is combat related. He tells them how things can get better and how they can feel better. He offers hope from someone who has been there. He helps connect them to the services they need. And they get better. When they come to our Veterans Program I give them information about what they are dealing with, the sense of isolation reduces, they feel the support, more things seem possible, and more gets done. I tell them, “You didn’t get here by yourself, so build a unit that will help you get out of this.” Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program can be part of that unit. A County Veterans Service Officer is part of my unit. And we press forward . . . offering hope and services to those who want them and who no longer want to suffer alone.