Stories of Support, Hope & Change

Veteran Restarts Her Life

Army veteran, Tamara S., age 46, resided at the Beth-El Center for six weeks at the end of 2017 when she had nowhere else to turn. After ending an unhealthy relationship, Tamara was temporarily staying with a family member. She then turned to the Beth-El Center for temporary housing and other supports.

According to Tamara, "When I went to Beth-El, I had nowhere else to go. The Beth-El Center gave me food, shelter and helped me think my life through and get myself together while I looked for a job and an apartment."

While at the Center, Tamara worked diligently to find housing and a part time job. Her Beth-El case manager, Margaret LeFever, helped her obtain a security deposit and the first two months of rent for her new apartment via Support Services for Veterans and Families.

According to Beth-El Center's Program and Facilities Director Jenn Paradis, "Tamara's tenacity and hard work helped in her ability to move out of the Shelter quickly. She was motivated, had a positive attitude, and knew what she needed to do. She was also very uplifting to other shelter residents."

Thanks to a grant that the Beth-El Center had received from the Norma F. Pfriem Foundation, the Center was able to provide Tamara with household items and supplies to set up her new permanent residence.

According to Tamara, "I always felt safe at Beth-El and the staff and other residents became like a family to me."

Client Testimonial: The Journey of Caroline, US Army Veteran

I would like to share with you a crucial part of my life's journey, which happened during my stay as a resident at the Beth-El Center. As I was preparing to discharge from a 30 day in-patient treatment for PTSD and Substance Abuse at the VA Hospital, life seemed bleaker and more hopeless than ever. I had .36 cents to my name and a small paper bag with one day's supply of clothing. I was new to CT and did not know one single place where I could stay. It was December and I wondered if riding the train all night would be enough to keep me warm until I could come up with a plan. That's when I was informed that a place in Milford had a bed available on the day I left the hospital. I had mixed feelings; I had never stayed at a shelter, and all I pictured were those horrible incidents we see on TV. I imagined someone trying to steal my shoes. On my way to Beth-El I seriously wondered if I should sleep with my shoes on. After all, I did not have a second pair!

When I arrived at Beth El Center, I was received as warmly as one would expect to be received by a favorite aunt or uncle. What I soon discovered was that Beth-El Center is so much, much more than merely a safe haven. Beth-El has a calming warm atmosphere, but most importantly, I was treated with dignity and respect. I never felt judged nor did anyone look at me with the disdain I felt for myself at that point. Instead I was encouraged and inspired. The staff demonstrated genuine care and concern, but not just with providing me a place to stay, but also with formulating a plan to continue going forward with my life. Every day I was inspired by the treatment and care I received and was extremely moved by the generosity of the surrounding community. I not only had a safe environment to sleep, I was provided with resources so that I had more to wear than just one day's worth of clothing! Every day at Beth-El it became clearer to me that I wanted to be on the other side of the fence and be the one to provide others with the same care and grace that I received at Beth-El Center.

Today I have come full circle! I say that because of the extraordinary treatment and encouragement I received while at Beth-El inspired me to want to do for others what Beth-El did for me. When I left Beth-El Center, I had obtained employment and had a section 8 voucher. Before the year was over I was able to give up that voucher and sustain my own housing. I was so inspired and awed that people like Toni Dolan and all of the staff at Beth-El exist that I wanted to do for others what they did for me. They gave me so much more than just a safe haven to sleep; I was given inspiration, encouragement and hope. I was given hope when I was incapable of seeing hope for myself.

I went on to get state certified as an addictions counselor; soon after, I went on to get my Bachelor's Degree in Human Services so that I could work with people who have mental health and addiction issues. I am presently two semesters away from getting my Master's Degree in Social Work. I work part time at Beth-El and am a full-time Admissions Coordinator and supervisor at a mental health and addictions facility.

I have shared each milestone in my life, because the first step I took towards the journey that I am on today began when I took my first step into Beth-El.I've seen many others that were residents at Beth-El while I was there throughout the years and so many of them are still doing well, have reconnected with their families and are thriving on their chosen paths.

I am happy to have the opportunity to share what Beth-El Center truly is and is not. Beth-El Center is not merely a place that offers temporary refuge to those in most dire need. Beth-El Center is a beacon of hope, restoration and second chances. I thank God that my journey led me to Beth-El Center because my experience there is responsible for where I am today and I can only hope that I can offer to others what Beth-El Center so graciously offered to me. Thank you!

Helping a Homeless Family

Homeless families are a heartbreaking tragedy that we see too often. Sandra, a divorced mom, and her two children found themselves in dire circumstances. Due to loss of income, she was evicted from her apartment and staying with relatives under strained conditions. Sandra was in a grim situation when she was finally referred to the Beth-El Center.

Beth-El Center provided Sandra, her 14 year old daughter and 9 year old son with shelter, food and a safe environment. With limited income and English as her second language, Sandra had many obstacles to overcome in order to move forward.

Support, Resources and Services

During her extended stay at the Beth-El Center, our trained staff provided Sandra with ongoing guidance and direction. After such turmoil in her life, Sandra's challenges filled her with despair and little hope. She accepted the full assistance of her case manager, Deb Moffa, who helped her find her self-worth and set her on a path to lead a stable, independent life.

"My case manager at Beth-El told me not to give up. For my children, I had to keep fighting," says Sandra.

To start, Sandra secured benefits such as food stamps and child support. She worked with Goodwill's career center employment services where she learned how to create a resume and apply for jobs. She qualified for services with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services who offered Sandra further job search assistance.

Beth-El's food pantry provided Sandra and her family with food for her to cook with in the shelter kitchen. She also participated in the Grow! Truck, a mobile food pantry that gave her an allotment of fresh food and workshops that taught her and her family about nutrition and healthy eating.
During their stay at the Beth-El Center, Sandra's children were able to remain in their respective schools and were provided with transportation. The family engaged in therapy and support activities including dinner and discussion with Milford Youth and Family Services to get them through the difficulties they faced during this time of transition.

Sandra also utilized ESL services that provided assistance in learning the English language through Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut. With the help of a literacy tutor, she gained verbal and written skillsĀ  necessary to advocate for herself and her children, providing her the additional tools necessary to achieve her independence.

Moving Forward

Our staff assisted Sandra in her efforts to secure an apartment through permanent supportive housing where she's now on a path to long term stability for herself and her children. "When I had nowhere to go, Beth-El became my family," says Sandra. "Beth-El really saved me and my children."

When families have no one to turn to, the Beth-El Center offers a comprehensive solution to help turn around or restart their lives. We strive to keep families together in a confidential, safe and stable environment and offer the support and services to propel them forward. You can help by making a donation to Beth-El Center today!

A Young Mother and her Son: Learning to Live Independently

Programs and resources offered at the Beth-El Center can provide much needed educational, financial and nutritional benefits to residents like Elisandra. A 21 year old single mother of a toddler, Elisandra is eager to learn how to live independently. With few examples in her life to follow and learn from, she's using the resources at the Beth-El Center to help her pave the way to a stable life.

Elisandra and her 18-month old son Felix arrived at the Beth-El Center in June of 2016. She became homeless in November 2015 after being evicted from her apartment. When Elisandra arrived at the Beth-El Center, she had very little emotional or financial support from her family and was not attached to any community services.

With the assistance of her case manager, Craig Wainwright, Elisandra has laid out the goals she intends to achieve while at Beth-El. In addition to finding housing and stable child care, she opened a bank account and is learning how to budget and save money for the long term.

Elisandra is working diligently to get on her feet and is now employed full time on a production line at a local manufacturing company.

"With the obstacles that Elisandra has faced as a young, single mother with very little family support, she has shown strength, courage and a determination to succeed," says Craig. "She is a great mom and her and Felix have been a pleasure to have here at the Beth El Center."

Elisandra receives assistance from programs offered by the Beth-El Center including the bi-weekly GROW! Truck. In addition to participating in educational classes, Elisandra and her son are provided with fresh, nutritional food. The GROW! Truck, a partnership with the Connecticut Food Bank, is a customized, refrigerated vehicle with shelves loaded with items such as fruits vegetables, fish, meat and shelf-stable foods. Families enrolled in the program attend a nutrition or financial education workshop before boarding the truck to "shop" for food. With the Grow! Truck Elisandra is able to reduce her food bill each month, enabling her to save money and take care of other financial responsibilities.

According to Elisandra, "I appreciate all of the help that I have received from Beth El. It has been a good experience for me and my son."

Positive Changes for a Mother and Child

Upon entering the Beth-El Center, Linda*, a 21 single mother of an 18 month old daughter, was unemployed and homeless.

Based on a written plan that Linda and her case manager developed, she focused on obtaining employment, saving money, paying off debt and finding affordable housing.

With her case manager's assistance, Linda began searching for employment. She had her Certified Nursing Assistant license and was able to secure a job with the assistance of the Goodwill Career Center and CT Works. Once she began working, Linda starting paying off delinquent bills and opened a bank account to save for her new apartment.

Linda's Beth-El case manager helped her apply to Care4Kids to receive childcare assistance and once she was approved she secured daycare in New Haven for her daughter.

Beth-El referred Linda to the CT Rapid Re-Housing Program for an affordable housing search and rental assistance. Linda was approved for assistance and found a two bedroom rental in New Haven where she now lives with her daughter.

*names have been changed to protect privacy

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