Stories of Support, Hope & Change (ORIGINAL)

Acceptance, Respect and Understanding Found at Beth-El Center

Jason Hurley was trying to get back on his feet after overcoming problems with drug and alcohol addiction. He was clean but homeless and living in his car with his dog Patch. Through 2-1-1, Jason came to stay at the Beth El Center.

Identifying as a transgender man, Jason found safety, security and acceptance at the Center. In Jason's previous experiences in rehab, his identifying as a man wasn't understood or respected.

"My stay at the Beth-El Center was a life changing experience for me. They helped to set me on the road to excelling. They offered lots of understanding and respected who I am as a person," said Jason.

Emotional Support Dog Welcomed

Beth-El also welcomed Jason's emotional support animal-- his dog Patch, an Australian Shepherd mix. He discovered that many other shelters would not allow animals which hindered Jason's efforts to find a place to stay.

While at the Center, Jason tapped into the resources he needed to move forward. He found a job in Danbury and traveled an hour and half to and from work each day. Jason's case manager helped him find doggy day care to accommodate Patch while he was at work. With the Center's assistance, Jason found a permanent place to live.

"Jason worked tirelessly to restore his housing stability and took advantage of all of the Center's programs and services during his time with us. His work ethic was amazing," says Jenn Paradis, Beth-El Executive Director. "Jason's courage to proudly be himself lets others know that they can feel safe and supported by our Center. Emergency shelter services should be a basic human right and the success of Jason's story shows how important policies such as the Equal Access Rule are to ensuring that low barrier, trauma-informed care is available to every person in shelter."

Jason now works as an outreach crisis counselor and feels like things have come full circle. Jason is now offering coping strategies, emotional support and life changing resources to people in need, in the same way that the Beth-El Center helped him.

A Positive Attitude and New Beginning Moves Homeless Mother Forward

In 2019 PraiseRejoice and her two children came from their home state of California to Connecticut to help out relatives who were living in the Waterbury area. PraiseRejoice had been depressed because she felt trapped in her current living situation and decided she needed a new beginning.

With just a small savings and a Section 8 voucher, the single mother and her two young boys ages 8 and 2 flew to CT. Unfortunately, not long after she arrived, her family members lost their home where she was staying.

After a short stay at a hotel, Praise was connected to the Beth-El Center in December of 2019 through 2-1-1 assistance. Her family stayed in the Center's triage area for a few weeks before they were placed in the shelter's family program.

Guidance from Beth-El Case Manager

She contemplated going back to CA to live with her grandmother but knew it wasn't the best option for her. She also considered moving to Texas but when that fell through, she settled on staying in Connecticut. Her Center case manager then helped Praise develop a goal and plans for finding stable housing.

"Praise kept a positive attitude during her time at the Center. Her optimism affectively contributed to her overcoming any barriers and obstacles in her pursuit to obtaining stable housing," according to Tomeka Hudson, Beth-El Center case manager.

While at the Center, Praise took advantage of the self improvement classes and resources offered to its residents including personal finance and self care classes.

According to Praise, "I'm a positive person so staying at the Beth-El Center was a positive experience. I loved my case manager and everything she helped me with. I loved the fact that you had to contribute and do chores, everyone's demeanor was helpful. They do important work and have compassionate hearts. "

Knowing that other people were in need of Beth-El Center's shelter and case management assistance, one of Praise's goals was to stay at the Center for no more than 90 days. Within that timeframe, she found an apartment in West Haven where she and her sons live today.

"Having stable housing means you have a safe place to call your own, a stepping stone to wherever you want to be in your life," said Praise. "It's the freedom to be yourself, operate in the way you choose. It gives you the solid foundation for a stable mind."

Homeless Pregnant Woman Finds Refuge and Guidance at Beth-El Center

Sitting in a McDonald's parking lot with nowhere to go, Samantha received the phone call that changed her life. After reaching out to 2-1-1, Samantha was notified of an opening at the Beth-El Center and she moved in the next morning.

Samantha was 7 months pregnant and had been living with her grandmother who fell ill and went into a nursing home. Having recently experienced domestic violence issues with her partner and with no other family members to rely upon, Samantha was alone and needed a safe place to live. "I felt like I didn't know how I was going to make it. It was a mix of not knowing what to do as an expectant mother and being homeless."

Search for Employment and Housing

Beth-El Center provided guidance to help Samantha with her job search, house hunting and paid for housing until she could afford it on her own. "The guidance and support to find housing that worked for me made the biggest difference," said Samantha.

Beth-El Center's Housing Specialists provided Samantha with housing leads, bus passes to tour apartments and meet with landlords and property managers as well as security deposit assistance.
She became a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) while with us, helping to work towards her goal of becoming a nurse. All this, coupled with our case management services, gave her the stability and guidance Samantha needed to restart her life. She says, "Even though I was nine months pregnant, I still found a job and got to work. "

Big Life Changes

Samantha gave birth to her daughter Taylor while she was living at the Center. She transitioned into our Family shelter and Beth-El Center supplied items for her newborn including food, diapers and clothing. "I'm very grateful for the Center. I don't know where I would be if I didn't go there. You made a huge impact on my life and my daughter's life; she is healthy today because we had you."

Samantha currently resides with her daughter in Hamden, CT. Her goals are to continue to work, stay focused and go back to school- she still wants to become a nurse. "Help is available when you need it," says Samantha. "Everyone at Beth-El is there to help make you more successful. The resources are there - you just don't give up and no excuses."

According to Jenn Paradis, Beth-El Center Executive Director, "Samantha is the example of 'hard work pays off'. She came to us with great barriers to overcome and worked with staff daily to achieve each and every goal she had while here. She was strong and brave for herself and Taylor. We love seeing the long term success stories and thankfully we get to hear them often."

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