Achieving Self-Sufficiency, One Day At A Time

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In August 2019 Laurence, a father of two teenage daughters, was trying hard to stay positive about his family’s situation, they were homeless and without a vehicle.

To most people this would seem like an impossible challenge with a felony on his record, still on probation and without a high school diploma or GED. However, Laurence remained positive that they would overcome their situation and succeed.

Laurence, like many individuals who first approach SENCA for assistance, was dealing with food insecurity. He scheduled an appointment with the Family Development Associate (FDA) at the Cass County Outreach Office and completed the required paperwork. Laurence’s information provided SENCA with what was needed to better understand the family’s situation and identify what programs and services could be utilized to help the family attain their ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.

In addition to the food-pantry that met the immediate emergency need, Laurence and his two daughters, because of their homeless situation, were referred to the agency’s Project First program. Project First is designed specifically for homeless families, with children, providing rent and utility assistance, along with weekly case management sessions for up to 24 months. Following an interview conducted by trained SENCA staff, Laurence’s family was approved for the program.

SENCA worked with Laurence and local landlords to find an affordable home that could be rented which was suitable for him and his two daughters. Laurence met weekly with the Cass County FDA to work on budgeting, goal setting, money management, enrollment in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Medicaid benefits, legal aide to assist with his divorce and his search for employment.  

“I had worked construction then drove a cab for a while after moving to Cass County from Bellevue in 2015,” shares Laurence “but I never thought I would see myself working in the food industry.” Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened when Laurence was offered and accepted employment at a local food establishment that was fairly new to the Cass County community. Laurence not only found work, he was fortunate enough to find an employer who believed in him and helped him secure a used vehicle. While this helped ensure he could get to work, it also provided much needed transportation to Laurence’s family. “No one had ever done anything like that for me before,” Laurence shares, “I was fortunate to find SENCA and an employer who each gave me a chance when I needed it the most.”

Laurence invested himself in SENCA, in his work and in creating stability for his two daughters sharing “Instead of just saying to your children things will get better, I wanted to show my daughters that things are better.” Project First provided Laurence the peace of mind of not having to worry about housing or utility expenses, thereby allowing him to focus on increasing job skills, working on self-improvement and investing in his future. As a result of determination and hard work, in September 2020, Laurence was promoted from working part-time earning $10 an hour with no benefits to store manager, a salaried position at $2,400 a month that will also provide him with health insurance benefits and paid time off.  

Within a year of enrolling in Project First, Laurence successfully exited the program. He continues to maintain the momentum he achieved during his 12 months of working one-on-one with SENCA, humbled and grateful for the opportunity to participate in this life changing program. He remains focused on a positive future, his two years of sobriety and attaining his next goal of obtaining his GED.

“From start to finish SENCA treated me like a person, not as a failure or as a felon, but with respect and dignity,” comments Laurence. “SENCA gave me a chance, along with the confidence to succeed.”