Families Moving Forward
"I had nowhere to go. No home, no job, no car," she said. Three years later, Mikida's voice still quivers with emotion when talking about that time in her life.
Back then, within a short time on the streets, Mikida had discovered a network of homeless people who looked out for one another. She connected with a young woman close to her age, who steered her to a shelter. At other times, fatherly men watched out for her, keeping her safe.
At 21, Mikida felt she had fallen all the way to the lowest possible place she could imagine. She was shocked to find herself in this situation. She was a high school graduate and a certified medical assistant. She had had a decent job. She had been on the road to stability.
That road took a sharp turn when she and her boyfriend broke up, and when she was convicted of a gross misdemeanor for trying to sell property she had not known was stolen. Estranged from her family, she didn't know where to turn.
"It was a lot of drama," she says of that time. "I didn't know where to go. I had cried wolf so many times before that none of my family or friends paid any attention. I didn't have help when I needed it."
But she did have a reason to keep going. "I would walk along the streets, patting my belly and talking to my baby," she said. "The baby was a life that I knew would depend on me...I had to keep going."
Eventually, after a few weeks on the streets, a stranger took Mikida into her home, where she lived for a short time before finding transitional housing. Once she had a roof over her head, Mikida needed a job. She turned to Multi-Service Center's THRIVE program.
MSC's THRIVE program helps homeless individuals improve their marketability in today's job market. Through job skills training, job search assistance, financial management and other resources, including some paid internships, people can find success in employment again.
At MSC, Mikida met with MSC case manager Jim Boland. "When Mikida came in she started telling me every reason she couldn't get a job. But she was always on time for our appointments and she was very professional. She couldn't see her potential for herself, but I could," he said.
Sometimes all it takes is having one person believe in you that makes the difference.
"Jim did everything he could for me," Mikida said. "He helped me create my resume and cover letter, which are beautiful; and he passed on a lot of job referrals."
In the end, Mikida had her choice of jobs.
"I got so many calls from my applications that I could choose the job I wanted," she said with a bright smile.
A mother of a 2-year-old son, Mikida now works in the insurance industry. "I love it," she says. "I'm gaining confidence and experience."
She is optimistic for her future.
She can tick off the many lessons she has learned from her experiences, but she is very clear of one thing. "Having a job is the most important thing to survive," she says.
She has advice for others: "Even though it may be gloomy, focus on the one bright spot. It could be a really bad day -- it's raining, I have a flat tire and my cell phone is dead -- but I am alive and breathing. Being able to do this really helps. Otherwise, my thoughts would just get more dark and negative and that didn't get me anywhere."
With optimism like that, one has the sense that Mikida will take her many life experiences and turn them into a very bright future for herself and her family.
Simon voluntarily entered a treatment facility in 2009 after realizing that he needed to redirect his life. He had spent the past few years in and out of jail on drug related charges, unable to hold down a job because of his addiction and moving from shelter to shelter.
“I became sick and tired of being on the street. I was driving my mom crazy and the people I loved had lost faith in me and I missed my family. I had family that loved me, but I wasn’t loving myself. I chose to go to treatment and change my life.”
There were current Corp members at the same treatment facility who gave Simon the information to set up an interview. “I saw Corps members coming and going every day, they seemed to have direction and purpose and I wanted to be a part of that”
Simon was interviewed and hired on as a work training enrollee in November of 2009. He met with his case manager and identified the goals he wanted to accomplish during his 12 months in the program: To regain his driver’s license, to address and pay his child support debt, to obtain permanent housing and to learn the skills necessary to maintain employment and build a career. With the help from staff and his case manager, Simon was able to move into his own apartment and obtain his driver’s license within 8 months.
“The help I got from my case manager was amazing. She gave me the tools I needed to meet my goals. She pointed me in the right direction and set me up with the right people and supported me every step. By earning a wage while working full time, I was able to be personally responsible for cleaning up the messes I had made while in my addiction. I could pay my child support, my traffic tickets and my rent. I wasn’t getting hand outs.”
Because of his diligence and focus in addressing his personal challenges and his hard work and reliability out in the field, Simon was offered the position of Crew Lead, a promotion that offered higher pay and more responsibility.
“I never did this kind of physical work before. When it came to jobs, I guess I just chose what was easy to get. This job challenges me in every way. Being surrounded by clean and sober people and having the support from staff, I know I’m in the right place.”
Simon has been with the Conservation Corps for 2 years. He now leads his own crew, trains new hires and assists in managing projects.
“The Conservation Corps has given me a solid foundation. I’m a better father to my children now. They can be proud of me and I am a positive example for them. I have earned back the love and support of my family. I now know what I’m capable of. I know I’m a hard worker and that I’m responsible. When I leave here, I have the skills and work ethic to start a career.”
“The Conservation Corps is the best thing that has happened to me. They have given me a new outlook on my life and I am very thankful.”
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