Small Victories, Life Changing Success

By LIFT on February 17, 2016

Categories: Real Stories


There is little glamour in what happens in the LIFT-DC office. Our advocates, fellows, and members work hard every day to fill out long job applications, sift through Craigslist for affordable housing, or wait on hold with a provider to register for services. The LIFT model is about the small victories – getting through that long Walmart assessment together, freeing up just a bit more income each week, helping a member recognize their own strengths – that culminate into life changing successes. When we feel like there are just too many disappointments in a day, the optimism and positivity of our members and advocates keep us going.

Mr. W was one of those Members. He came to us this time last year after suffering from a stroke and losing his family home. Because he is legally blind, he uses a walker and metro access to get around DC. When he came in to fill out applications for subsidized senior housing every week, his smile and cheery demeanor brightened our office. He shared stories about his family, his best roast recipes, and his love of dancing with us. He never missed an appointment, and stayed positive through dozens of applications.

With Mr. W, we saw the subsidized housing process from start to finish.  We connected him with one of our closest referral partners, Bread for the City, where he was oriented to the subsidized housing process and went weekly to pick up applications for buildings with open waitlists. He came to LIFT every Wednesday morning to fill out those applications, make copies of his paperwork, and collect his proofs. He would leave from his sister’s or daughter’s house with his walker and cane, traveling all over the city to hand in the applications in person at each open building.

Each week we would hear about his progress. We tracked where he submitted applications, called to see where he was on the waitlist, and filled in the boxes on each application: name, address, social security number, last seven years of residential history, employment history, on and on.

Then, almost a year after his search with us began, we got a call. Mr. W hit the top of the waitlist and could receive an apartment for only 30% of his Social Security income. Through another partnership, this time with Benevolent, a crowd funding platform for nonprofits, we were able to raise $250 to move his bed and boxes from his sister’s house.

I was there when he pulled up in the Uhaul with the movers, walked through the door of his new home, put his food in his cabinets, and met his neighbors across the hall.  I made the call to our office to tell them that everything went smoothly, and Mr. W now had a home!

Our members invite us to be a tiny part of their journey. Through a small window of an hour per week, we get a glimpse of the pain of poverty, but also the joys of victories, mercies, and connections that happen in our members’ lives.  Mr. W graciously allowed me to share in his excitement and joy after working so hard to call a place his own.  His success buoys us up to work through applications with those members who have not yet found that same victory. In LIFTing himself, Mr. W helps us LIFT many more.