Back from the Abyss

Interfaith, TI help struggling mom get back on her feet. (Courtesy photo)

A little more than a year ago, “Kelly Simone” (who did not want her real name used) was laid off from her welding job at a Virginia shipyard. At the time, she’d been suffering from complications related to a cesarean section that forced her to miss time from work.

While losing her job was not a good thing, Simone had little reason to think it would be more than a temporary setback. She had seven years of work experience, a committed partner with whom she shared two young boys, and $10,000 in savings.

The family soon decided to relocate to North Texas. Job opportunities looked good in the area, and Simone had family in the state. She never imagined the events that were about to unfold.

“My partner spent all the money and was becoming unstable,” she said. “I couldn’t even trust him around the kids anymore.”

Unemployed, homeless, and nearly broke, Simone struggled to find work while raising two kids on her own.

She and the boys, now ages 3 and 1, moved from hotel to hotel and couch to couch. They stayed with family and friends in Dallas, Houston, and Virginia before returning to Dallas yet again.

Throughout the ordeal, Simone’s inability to pay for child care hindered her job search, which thus prevented her from affording child care. It seemed like a hopeless trap.

Then her aunt mentioned Interfaith Family Services, a nonprofit dedicated to combatting the cycle of poverty.

Interfaith offers families a temporary place to live while they get back on their feet. In Dallas, the agency has three buildings that serve 23 families. The average family stays about six to nine months until ready to move out on its own.

The nonprofit depends on $5,000 donations from corporate or individual sponsors to accommodate each family. The funds helps pay for furniture, child care, and educational programs.

Families get to keep the furniture when they move out, and sponsors are updated on the progress of the families.

This spring, the Texas Instruments Technology and Manufacturing Group (TMG) sponsored two families by donating $10,000. Simone was one of the recipients.

Volunteers helped make the home ready before she moved in.

“About 12 people from TMG spent a morning and part of an afternoon cleaning, shopping, finding toys for the kids, and really trying to personalize it based on the family,” said Laura McLaughlin, TMG vice president of manufacturing organization. “We had their beds covered with toys.”

This is the third consecutive year that McLaughlin’s group partnered with Interfaith in coordination with the United Way. According to her, the experience is especially rewarding when the group receives updates on how the families are progressing.

“When I look at our focus, we try to ask ‘How do we combine dollar contributions with volunteer contributions?’ ” she said. “It’s something Texas Instruments has been doing for over 80 years, and we are very proud of that.”

Thanks to the TI sponsorship, Simone now has help with child care and finding a car. She is going on interviews and said she has several promising prospects.

“I’m really happy to be in the program, because I don’t have to go on welfare,” Simone said. “They also help you out a lot. I’ve really enjoyed Bible study and meeting my neighbors.”

Every family that the organization helped last year is still employed, and 87 percent of them have met their savings goals, according to Interfaith spokesperson Destiny DeJesus.

There are many people out there who may not be living on the streets, but are homeless, like Simone, constantly moving from place to place, DeJesus said.

“While they are here, they go through financial coaching, career coaching, and help with child care and after-school programs,” DeJesus said. “The hope is that when they leave they will have the skills and the savings that they need to make it.”

Simone said that since she has been at Interfaith, she has focused on three goals: establishing child care, finding a job, and then rebuilding her savings. She hopes to have at least $2,000 in the bank by the time she leaves.

“We’ve been through a lot, but it’s going to get better,” she said. “It’s already getting better.”

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