Evelyn reflects on her struggles with homelessness to obtain a job allowing her to “pay it forward”

Don’t give up. New beginnings are on the horizon

Evelyn’s homelessness started when she was a caretaker for her mother suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Already battling her own addiction, Evelyn became homeless after her mother passed away. She relocated to Phoenix hoping for a fresh start.

Evelyn arrived at the Campus during the time period the Campus was referred to as “The Zone.” This part of Evelyn’s life is difficult for her to talk about, no doubt having been filled with many traumatic experiences that cause her pain, anger and shame. During that time, there was so much drug use and violence on and around the Campus that the Phoenix Police Department would use the area to train undercover police officers. Fortunately, as the city’s drug trafficking problem has decreased, “The Zone” is a term one doesn’t often hear. Evelyn would not share how long she stayed on the streets before she finally was stable enough to get a bed in the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS). But in the time between her arriving at “The Zone” years ago, and finally coming to CASS for a shelter bed, Evelyn was diagnosed with a mental illness, something for which she was self-medicating. She is now also actively in addiction recovery.

Evelyn is a classic example of the types of clients with whom we work – the most challenging individuals to employ, who often need time to become stable and truly ready to be successful in a job. But as soon as they are ready, SJW is here for them, connecting them with employment! Evelyn is also an amazing example of how the Human Service Campus’s (HSC) collaborative approach to the chronically homeless can result significant success and life transformation. With the right kinds of help and a lot of hard work on Evelyn’s part, she is actively receiving services for her mental illness diagnosis and is maintaining her sobriety. She is in a much better place today!

Still residing in CASS at the time, Evelyn became an SJW client in February 2020. Surviving on disability, Evelyn had not worked for more than a decade. But after staying in CASS for just 6 weeks, she was able to get her own apartment! And after becoming a client of SJW, she was on her way to becoming gainfully employed once again.

Originally from Los Angeles, Evelyn was a nurse working in the Skid Row District for about eight years, as well as having worked in a professional lab. She also held a certificate in Peer Support. Her qualifications and resume were solid. At her Intake, Evelyn’s employment goal was not only to work in Social Services, but to work on the HSC so that she could “pay it forward” for the assistance that she has received here. Seeing promise and determination in Evelyn, Employment Lead Ruben Meyers, went the extra mile and personally emailed Evelyn’s resume out to managers on the HSC. Unfortunately, at that time, there weren’t any openings.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in March and things have been tough since then, having disproportionately affecting those who are already disadvantaged. Fast forward to late June, and SJW’s Executive Director, Brent Downs sent Ruben a job lead for a position with Native American Connections (NAC). On July 1st Ruben passed the lead onto Evelyn. Still looking for employment and wanting to work, she was very interested. Brent emailed her resume himself to our contact at NAC. Shortly thereafter, Ruben was called to give Evelyn a reference. At that time, the position was only part time, and Evelyn really needed full time; but as divine providence would have it, the position became full time. On July 10th, Evelyn called Ruben to give him the good news. Her background took a while to clear, but she was able to start her new job on July 21st! In addition to job search support, the job lead to Native American Connections and the personal reference, SJW also provided Evelyn with gas cards to help alleviate her transportation costs as she stabilizes in her job and her new life.

Today, Evelyn has not only moved into her own apartment; she has purchased her own car. Though nervous about going back to work after such a long time, she is determined to maintain her employment and be successful in her job. Always humble, incredibly thankful, and now happily anticipating her new job, she says, “at first I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how I felt. I had been out of work for 19 years. But when I was given my start date, I felt like it was an opportunity to give back!” She also says this to others who are struggling, “Don’t give up. New beginnings are on the horizon.”

We hope great things for Evelyn; and will continue to be here to support her success in her job. And we thank the Otto & Edna Neely Foundation for your help in making a life journey’s like Evelyn’s one that can end in successful employment and self-sufficiency. Thank you for partnering with us, “Transforming Lives through Employment.”