April 10, 2009

Update on client story: the path back to solvency

Today we have an encouraging update on Mrs. A, a client whose story we first told on this blog a couple of months ago.

Mrs. A had worked all of her adult life, and never had to look for a job for more than a couple of weeks. But when her employer Fannie Mae pushed her in to "early retirement" in 2007, Mrs. A watched her severance package and life savings dwindle during the course of a job search that stretched well over a year.

When Mrs. A first came to us, her health insurance had expired, her diabetes medication had run out, and she had $33 to her name.

Since then, Mrs. A came to Bread for the City three more times in the last two months. She received diabetes medication, nutrition counseling and healthy groceries. During one visit, she even met with staff in our legal clinic.

"Without income, I'd fallen behind on my rent, and had received a summons. I needed to know what to do," explains Mrs. A. "The person I met with was very helpful and made me feel a little more stable – and helped me think about how to approach my landlord.”

In the meantime, we also referred Mrs. A to a program through which college students helped her buff up her resume. And Mrs. A kept herself busy: she took a class at H&R Block to learn more about tax filing, and she put this new knowledge to work by volunteering to help low income people with their taxes.

It was here that she bonded with a fellow volunteer who works for a subcontracting organization under the National Institute of Health. This new friend knew about a position open at her organization, and said she would recommend Mrs. A.

Weeks went by, and Mrs. A says she didn’t expect anything – but then she got a call.

“For a minute I thought I was being punked, because I didn’t make the connection.”

But it wasn’t a joke – and Mrs. A got the job. She starts today!

“It’s not permanent. My assignment is undetermined,” she says. “But there’s the possibility for full-time employment—and I get along well with others.”

Mrs. A is hopeful, and very relieved: "As of the first of May I’ll begin to pay my rent once more. I’ll be solvent again."

In the meantime, she's still insured by the DC Health Care Alliance, and hopes to continue visiting her doctor at Bread for the City.

The fact that Bread for the City was able to see me through…I wish I had the right words that would impress somebody. I can’t imagine – even in just these two months, what would have happened to me without medicine? When I came, I’d had three days of medication left, I thought maybe I’ll have to go to the emergency room, but that wouldn’t have gotten me through continuously. I can’t believe it, it felt like I was stuck in a third world country. I really don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found Bread for the City. It’s a hard thing for a proud person, which I am, to ask for help. But the outcome was so positive, and I was treated so well, that I want to make sure people know about it.

[***UPDATE***: the Huffington Post picked up on this story, with a piece from the National Women's Law Center about women's stakes in health care reform.]


WFPman said...

You guys are amazing and you need help. You need help from the US goverment! Charities and non-profits can't end poverty and hunger on their own. It's time to organize and lobby the government to help with what's important. I say all this because of the enlightenment I've received reading Joel Berg's latest book on hunger in America.


Greg Bloom said...

Thanks Jason. And you're right - we need strong public-private partnership at the moment. I think there are some instances where that's beginning to happen more, and we should indeed call for more. Also, I saw Joel Berg speak at a CAP event on hunger; he was devastating but also hopeful. He truly believed that we can solve hunger in ten years, and I believed him too.