Tag Archives: THRIVE

Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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Fitting Independence in the Budget

When Easter Seals Greater Houston Housing 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.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s free resources for Financial Education, Homebuyer Education Services & Public Benefits. Our agency also has programs for Veterans, Service Members, and Military-Connected Families here.

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Connecting Within the Veteran Community, Part 1: Client Focus

Easter Seals Greater Houston has done a wide variety of things for me. I am grateful for everything you all have done.  Before meeting with ESGH, I had done very little to connect to the Veterans community and the Veterans services that I am able to access because of my time in the Army.Veterans May

It has been a combination of effort from my mental health therapist, Amy Harkins, Jennifer Wright from the Service Dog Program and a few others who have helped me get tickets to concerts and other events.  I had an amazing time at the VetsAid concert.  I loved going to the Zoo for Walk With Me and I look forward to going again this year.  I even got connected to Give Vets a Smile at UT Dental and got some much-needed work done.  I plan to follow up with THRIVE (Easter Seals Financial Education Program) to keep working on my financial situation with Jenny Martinez.  I am thankful to be connected to the Veteran Food Pantry.  I tend to isolate so these activities mean the world to me.

I have the sense that there are puppet masters in the background at ESGH that are helping me out in ways that I don’t even really know about.  I have appreciated everything Jennifer Wright has done to keep the process going to get a service dog.  I do worry about some of the details of getting a service dog, but overall, I am very hopeful that having a service dog will help me explore and enjoy life to the fullest.  Having a dog will allow me to do things that I don’t do now.  A dog will open a door that I keep closed.  And a Service Dog will be a much-needed friend.  Jennifer has not given up on helping me get a service dog and I am so grateful that she has been persistent, on track, and motivated.  If she had given up, I would have given up a long time ago.

I know that talking (via Telehealth) to my therapist Amy has really helped me do things that I would not have done otherwise.  Talking has helped me to think about what I want to do.  I want to explore and see things in Houston.  Actually, one of the most helpful things we have done is meet in person.Veterans May 2  It was a very big step for me to start using Metro Lift so that I can meet in person.  Getting familiar with Metro Lift has opened up many opportunities for me.  Still, it is helpful that I can meet with my therapist by video when something gets off track.  Having you all in my corner has been my saving grace. 

 

Sincerely,

James Kittrell

Army Veteran

 

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Thriving for a Better Life After an Unexpected Storm.

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Claudia and her family were heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and then to make matters worse, her husband unexpectedly left the family after the hurricane.  Due to these catastrophic events, Claudia fell behind on bills, and her family’s mental health started taking a steep decline.  She learned about Easter SealsHarvey Program from a neighbor, and she contacted our case managers for rental assistance.  Claudia received direct client assistance funding to cover rent, utilities, and basic needs- but moreover, she received support, kindness, and help with finding resources from her case manager.  Claudia got enrolled in the Food Scholarship Program and is receiving ongoing one-on-one financial coaching.  These are supports that have helped Claudia and her family get back on their feet, and to a place where they are feeling a little more in control again.  As of her most recent financial coaching session, Claudia reported that things are better- she is currently working full time, receiving healthy food twice a month, and she is seeing a positive change in children’s behavior.  She says her children are smiling more and able to focus on the things they need to focus on, for example- getting ready for school- and not worrying about what food they are going to eat that night.  Claudia is thankful for Easter Seals Greater Houston and eager to learn more from financial coaching.

 

Jenny Martinez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing and Thrive Connection Houston

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There’s No Place Like Home

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Over 3 years ago, Heather  packed up her 2 young daughters Zoe then 6 weeks old and Riley 2, left an abusive relationship and everything that didn’t fit in her car and began a search for a home to raise her family.  After living in a succession of marginal rental situations – at one point living out of her car, Heather and her two young daughters moved in to their 3-bedroom home, close to family and work, and in the preferred school district.

It had not been easy, but Heather was determined and was quick to point out that it could not have been possible without the support of a team of housing professionals.

In January, she submitted an application to a housing counselor with Easter Seals Greater Houston for $14,500 of down payment assistance through the Montgomery County HOME Fund program and was approved.

With the down payment assured, she began working with Terry with Storehouse Mortgage to qualify for the mortgage loan.  Their budget was tight as she began paying down debt and building assets, but as Heather remarked, both Riley and Zoe understood that finding a permanent home was important and they all came together as a family to make it happen.

Heather began working with her realtor, Mike with Realty Solutions to find a property suitable for her family, proving to be a challenge.  Homes in her price range of $135,000 – 185,000   are the fastest to sell, and home-buyers like Heather even with committed financing must compete with cash buyers purchasing properties within the same day of listing.  Over the next several months, Mike presented multiple offers on homes with no success.  Finally in March Heather’s contract on a home was accepted, beating out eight other offers made the same day of listing. She would move from a ‘trailer’ home in an unsafe neighborhood for a home in a beautiful family-friendly neighborhood, with a mortgage payment $200+ less than her rent payment.  She pointed out that even her utility bills in the new home have been $200+ less.

The transition from renter to homeowner for families like Heather’s could not be possible without the support of  Easter Seals Greater Houston and their Financial Literacy, Home Buyers Education, FinTech and Case Management programming.

Moore 1On the local level, housing professionals such as lenders and realtors like Terry and Mike, and the Easter Seals HUD-certified housing counselors work to ensure that families like Heather’s secure sustainable mortgage products with all the financial support available. County agencies such as Montgomery County Community Development provide a number of programs such as the down payment assistance to help home-buyers purchase their first home.

On the community level,  non-profit coalitions such as United Way Greater Houston THRIVE continue to support housing counseling programs such as Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative.

On the macro level, NSEs such as our partner, Freddie Mac  help people in the military, veteran and care-giving communities, as well as those with disabilities, obtain affordable housing through renting or buying a home. They also constantly search for innovative ways to support affordable housing opportunities, such as their webinar series and other online resources.

It has been quite a journey for Heather and her daughters, but as she looks around her home, you can see the pride in her eyes at what they have accomplished. Now she would be proud for her children to invite friends over for sleepovers, and they can walk safely to the neighborhood park for birthday parties.

As Heather looked around her home filled with toys and the backyard filled with swings and wading pool, she remarked, “This feels like home.”

 

Katy Thorstenberg, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing Coordinator

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Homeless, then a House and then a Home!

I arrived in Houston in August of 2002. Prior to that time, I was successfully employed as a professional educator and trainer in the state of Washington; the proud recipient joseph photoof 2 graduate university degrees and a proud father and grandfather. My world turned upside down after I suffered a major health challenge. I was not able to work, and had to rely on state welfare and on disability income. Most of my family lived in Houston, so I migrated to Texas to live with family and continue my medical recovery. More unfortunate circumstances came my way with a death in the family and the loss of resources I was counting on to start my recovery. While living with a friend who offered the generosity of his home for a short time, I realized I was just a friend away from homelessness.

My desperate conditions began to turn around when I was referred to Easter Seals Greater Houston and the Home of Your Own Program. My Housing Coordinator gave me confidence that after a brief period of financial literacy training and increasing my credit score, I could buy a home of my own! I was diligent about my studies and work. Easter Seals assisted me in securing funds for the down payment, making a house more affordable. I was truly blessed to receive down payment assistance funds to help in my house purchase.

In 2010 I purchased a small house in a Houston Hope neighborhood with a house payment I could afford. My blessings continued as I learned Easter Seals was an AmeriCorps participant and I could become part of this program. I worked part-time at Easter Seals in the same program which helped me so greatly! The AmeriCorps program ended after one year. Just after that, I was offered a part-time Financial Coach position in the Home of Your Own Program. I was thrilled with this opportunity to give back and to help others pull themselves out of the grip of homelessness and despair. Easter Seals has a culture of acceptance and nurturing, and they welcomed me with open arms to their Easter Seals home. I went from Homelessness to a House of my own to my Easter Seals Home.

By Joseph Bowman, Easter Seals Greater Houston Housing Coordinator, Home of Your Own

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THRIVE Connection

Easter Seals’ clients, volunteer and staff alike are people who embody the “can do” attitude of not just survival but the ability to thrive while facing the challenges of our lives with disabilities and abilities. One particularly complex test relates to the financial needs and desires of families when at least one member has special needs.  The additional financial cost can vary from average $HOYO3  108 to $8742 per year, according to one public health study. We all know that “cost” is not only defined as dollars and cents, but in time and energy to care for all the members of a household. This is where THRIVE Connection can help. It is the financial education and coaching program piece of the Housing Initiative here at Easter Seals and an initiative lead by United Way Greater Houston and many other amazing local npo’s as a collaborative partnership.

The THRIVE Connection has financial coaches on hand to help individuals and families look that their financial history and help them plan and reach their goals. As each family is different so are their goals. The coaches assist with creating household bud???????????????????????????????get to create savings plans for emergencies or school tuition for family members, improving credit scores with debt reduction plans and financial preparation for first-time home ownership. Clients can receive individual financial coaching or attend small group sessions of Housing Orientation Seminar and Credit Boot Camp.  When a client is financially ready to purchase their home, the HUD-approved Home Buyer Education class is available. THRIVE connection at Easter Seals is part of the larger THRIVE collaborative through the United Way Greater Hohoyo 3uston network of agencies with programs that assist and support families in reaching their future goals.  The various programs are available around Houston. The Easter Seals Greater Houston Housing Orientation Seminars take place at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center. ESHG Credit Boot Camps and Home Buyer Education classes are held at our agency offices in Bellaire and The Woodlands. Individual financial coaching appointments occur at the main office in Bellaire. For more information or to schedule an appointment call 713-838-9050.

by Michele Schauer, THRIVE Connection at Easter Seals Greater Houston

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