Shelley’s Story: From Darkness into Light

By LIFT on May 25, 2015

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories


I started working with Shelley in September 2014. At that time she had been chronically homeless for over a year. Although Shelley had completed her Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences, she struggled to secure financial assistance for a first month’s rent, moving expenses, and for an apartment deposit. Shelley stated that after she secured a place of her own, she hoped to gain full-time employment and go back to school for her Bachelor’s Degree.

For the last seven months, Shelley had been living in a homeless shelter called PATH. Shelley was receiving food stamps and general relief aid, but she did not have a stable means of transportation and she remained on the waiting list for a Section 8 voucher. Shelley was depressed, but despite all of these setbacks, I knew Shelley was a fighter. She was going to upLIFT herself. Over the next six months, Shelley and I were incredibly committed to accomplishing her goals. She completed a “guard card” training course to become a licensed working security guard. In March her application for a guard card was approved and she is now certified as a security guard!

Through LIFT’s help, Shelley also applied for a temporary transportation assistance program called FAME. FAME allowed Shelley to gain access to transportation to visit agencies that helped her with a housing deposit, first month’s rent, and aided her in her apartment search. Despite many busy lines, disconnected numbers, and operators who directed us to other organizations, Shelley did not give up hope. Shelley is the definition of determination. She discovered St. Margaret’s who advised Shelley to enroll in the Coordinated Entry System (CES), a universal waiting list to get placed on an affordable housing waitlist. St. Margaret’s also informed Shelley that they could help her with move-in deposits. Shelley and I started to focus our meetings on finding housing leads that accepted a Section 8 voucher.

Finally, in March, Shelley spontaneously called to inform me that she had moved into an apartment! She found a senior apartment complex that accepted her Section 8 Voucher which allowed her to pay only 30% of her total income per month on rent. She has sought out mental health support for depression and she just started receiving public benefits in the form of SSDI, which means that her income and overall stability has increased significantly. Shelley is planning to come to LIFT in the next few weeks to work on other goals with me and we are all looking forward to congratulating her on these amazing accomplishments.

Shelley feels that hope has helped her tremendously, and wants to pass this goodness onto someone else that is going through a tough time.

This post was written by Ana Resner from the perspective of AmeriCorps*National Direct Member Service Fellow, Marissa Schnitman