It all paid off in the end

By Kimberly Hammond

One of the most rewarding life experiences is accomplishing personal, realistic goals. My objective was to gain financial independence through job security. The journey alone required daily commitment and well-thought-out plans with much patience. I struggled financially as a divorced mother of four and substitute teacher, 21st century worker on weekdays and Macy’s beauty consultant on weekends, bringing home just $1,640 a month after taxes. In addition to my already complicated schedule, I attended Tarrant County College and later enrolled in the University of Phoenix to obtain my Bachelor’s in Psychology, which is still in progress. Bouncing back and forth between these jobs in certain seasons, not to mention the complexity of situations beyond my control, was not satisfying.  What I needed was a real profitable change. I needed to purposely transition to a better paying job as soon as possible.

I began working for Bloomfield selling homes and making $12 per hour but only part-time jobs were available. I decided to sign up for the Family Self Sufficient Program (FSS). The very first thing was to become familiar with the program offerings and resources so I could take advantage of all the opportunities. Faithfully I made myself available for the workshops and financial education offered by FWHS and the Center for Transforming Lives.  I basically utilized what was right in front of me, making no room for excuses.  I knew that if I wanted to be successful I had to be utterly dedicated to obtaining my specific goals.  I found a job through Cornerstone Staffing and started as a temp, then a few months later became a full-time loan processor at a mortgage company.

Once I began this process, along with completing my short-term goals of building my savings by taking advantage of basic matching programs, I knew I was on the road to financial independence.  I also paid close attention to my hourly wage, negotiating the best pay-grade per position as I moved through the company.  I always knew that if that I made more, sure, my rent would be higher but more funds would be deposited into my escrow account by the FSS program.  Now everything was falling into place. I was so focused that I inadvertently restructured my life with new patterns, a new norm and new hopes to win.

What encouragement to have an opportunity to match my savings, build an escrow account and more importantly become less dependent on government agencies. It was one of the best choices that I have ever made. What I found beneficial was the education and training on budgeting and managing my income, saving money, becoming debt-free and networking – all crucial to be successful.

Now five years later I make more than all my previous jobs combined. It was a challenge indeed, but I was able to fulfill my goals with the help of my loving family and the FSS specialist. I had to learn how to eliminate limited thinking and excuses, understanding that if I wanted to be successful in completing and graduating from the FSS Program I had to be utterly dedicated to obtaining that specific goal.  I learned to respect the process along with being uncomfortable, uncompromising and strategic. It all paid off with a sweet $9,600 in the end.

From living in a car to magna cum laude

Sept. 2018 – A Vietnam era veteran, Stephen Moreland was sleeping in his car near the UTA campus one night when a police officer tapped on the window. “Are you homeless? Are you a veteran?” she asked as Stephen sat up and shook himself awake. The officer explained that she was an advocate for the homeless.

Stephen forgot about the conversation until two weeks later when he received a phone call from a Fort Worth Housing Solutions housing counselor. A VASH voucher was waiting for him, she said. Within weeks he moved into an apartment and began receiving services from the VA. “I owe my life to VASH,” recalls Stephen. “I wouldn’t have made it much longer out there.”

Homeless for about 13 months, his misfortunes began when  was laid off from an I.T. job in Los Angeles. With neither a college degree nor I.T. certification, he couldn’t find a new job. He returned to Texas and became his Mother’s caretaker. When his siblings decided to move to Lubbock and sell the house, he had to move out, but he had no job and little money.  “It’s my responsibility. I don’t blame I.T. I don’t blame my family. I was stuck. I didn’t have anything built up.”

Stephen made the most of his five years on the VASH program. He pursued a college degree, believing it was the lack of education and training that led to homelessness. He earned a B.S and graduated magna cum laude from UTA, then earned a M.P.A. in Public Administration. Earlier this year he began working full-time at Walmart, where he was quickly promoted to department manager. While he would like to work in the public sector, he is grateful that he no longer needs housing assistance.

Stephen took a break from making spaghetti to speak by telephone for this article. “Without VASH I would have been lost a long time ago. And now I’m making meatballs!”

“I feel like a complete human being now,” he said. “I’m at peace with my life.”

Keep your head up!

June 2017 – “If I could give some advice to any young, single parent who is striving for a better life for their children, I would say, ‘Keep your head up’” remarks Rundee Thomas, our June representative in the client spotlight. Having put herself through college, first earning a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Learning with a minor in Sociology to most recently graduating in June with a master’s degree in Child Psychology, Ms. Thomas had the opportunity to accept a position as a Prevention Specialist at Safe Haven. As a mother of two, Rundee kept her faith and stayed in school while working two, sometimes three jobs just to make ends meet. Her goal is to continue moving forward, becoming debt free and purchasing a house that she and her daughters can call, “home.” Congratulations, Rundee!

Volunteer of the Year

May 2017 – This month, our spotlight shines on Joyce Jackson. She is a senior resident at JA Cavile Place and is active in neighborhood meetings and plans on joining the resident association as a community volunteer. A native of Austin, she moved to Fort Worth over 10 years ago for a change of scenery.  Having retired from the Boys and Girls Club, Ms. Jackson now continues to volunteer as that organization’s Arts Director. In 2016 alone, she logged over 300 volunteer hours and was recently honored as the branch’s Volunteer of the Year for her dedication to the youth of America. Congratulations, Joyce!

Graduating with honors

April 2017 – “Remarkable.” That is the word housing counselor Geraldine Murrell-Godfrey uses to describe this month’s featured client, Heather Zipper. Heather joined the Shelter Plus Care Program in 2008 and has taken advantages of all programs, services, resources and leads that were presented to her as a housing participant.   She has also been very diligent at following up on outside referrals that were presented to her. An excellent student, graduating with honors from Tarrant County College and then also cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, she has worked part-time through school while also being the single parent of a young autistic son. In addition to her many scholastic awards, December 2016 brought Ms. Zipper the additional recognition when she was presented with Fort Worth Housing Solutions’ Special Program Personal Achievement Award. Congratulations, Heather!

Client Spotlight

March 2017 – Bertha Petite has been a client of Fort Worth Housing Solutions since 2004. As a mother of nine, Bertha has always been dedicated to her family. She prides herself with the morals and standards her mother instilled in her at a young age. While raising her own children, she has always had a constant drive for excellence. With the help of the after school and summer programs offered by the FWHS Resident and Community Services department she has been able to keep her children focused and engaged. Ms. Petite is currently employed at Walmart where she has been a loyal employee for approximately four years. Because of the assistance received from FWHS, Bertha has been able to achieve many of her life aspirations. Her hope for the future is that she can become  a homeowner and fully self-sufficient. Congratulations, Bertha!

Client Spotlight

January 2017 – Elizabeth Lopez is the first person in the new year to be featured in the Client Spotlight.  A recent Resident Achievement Award winner, Ms. Lopez received some extra escrow money because of her distinguished efforts and graduating from the Family Self Sufficiency Program in September 2016.  Elizabeth is reaching milestones professionally as well. Having worked at Costco since April 2014, she was quickly promoted out of the deli to the food court. After two years, Elizabeth applied for the position of part-time stocker and within months was promoted to full-time with a pay raise. Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Client Spotlight

December 2016 – Nicole Hicks joined the Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program in February 2014. At that time, her goal was to eventually become a licensed cosmetologist. Following through on her dream, Ms. Hicks successfully completed that training. Today, she is not only a licensed cosmetologist, but has also become an instructor at a cosmetology and makeup school in Grand Prairie. In addition to reaching these career milestones, in June 2016, Nicole also acquired the title of “home owner” by working with the FWHS Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership program. Congratulations, Nicole!

Client Spotlight

November 2016 – Kip Green has been a participant of the Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program since September 2013. Previously, Mr. Green was working with Liberty House, an organization which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans, for his living arrangements. Before retiring, Kip proudly served in the United States Navy where he held the E4 position of Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AZ).

Mr. Green had a longstanding dream to purchase his own home.  On August 3, 2016, he realized that dream and became the first VASH participant to purchase a home through the FWHS Housing Choice Voucher program. Congratulations, Kip!

Client Spotlight

October 2016 – This month we are featuring LaToya McIntosh.  LaToya has been a resident of Cavile Place with her 3 daughters since February 2015 and has recently completed the Call Center Agent training program through Tarrant County College (TCC). She qualified for the education through the Resident Opportunities Self-Sufficiency Program offered by Fort Worth Housing Solutions after completing her GED.

Currently enrolled at TCC as a full-time student fulfilling the prerequisites for a degree in Criminal Justice, Ms. McIntosh is also seeking a full-time role as an administrative assistant that will fit with her educational schedule. Congratulations LaToya!