High school sweethearts Krystal and Ivan never thought that three years into their marriage, they’d be faced with one of the most difficult challenges their relationship would be tested to withstand.
It was 2007, around the time the recession hit, when both Krystal and Ivan lost their jobs. With a 1-year-old and another child on the way, the couple found themselves desperately trying to stretch every dollar but quickly realized they couldn’t survive without an income. With no employment leads, unpaid utility bills and being evicted from their home, the couple turned to family for support.
“We were overwhelmed and scared. I had never been in a situation like that before—having to live with family, married with a child and another on the way. It was a very low blow,” Krystal said.
Still staying with family, Krystal became pregnant with their third child. Feeling as though they had become too much of a burden, the family of five decided it was time to seek assistance from a local shelter.
“We felt like we were constantly walking on eggshells and always felt like guests,” Ivan recalled. “We had worn out our welcome.”
“So we swallowed our pride and called the housing hotline,” Krystal said.
After living at the shelter for three months and wanting nothing more than independence and a fresh start, they were referred to United Way supported Humanitri.
Humanitri helps families in financial and personal crisis get back on their feet and pointed in the right direction. Through the guidance of several personalized programs, families are offered assistance in situations ranging from finances to abuse and poverty.
With United Way’s assistance and Humanitri’s Transitional Housing Program, Krystal and Ivan began reconstructing their lives, dollar by dollar. They were provided the essential tools to obtain stable jobs, begin saving money, pay off their utility bill debt and afford an apartment.
During the two-year program, families are given assistance every step of the way. Humanitri allows families to take the time necessary to secure their finances and develop the skills and confidence needed to transition into their Anchors Program.
The Anchors Program is for families who are financially prepared to move onward from transitional housing to securing permanent housing. Through this program, Krystal and Ivan were provided a landlord who was willing to work with them and cover their first month’s rent, allowing them to continue saving.
Humanitri’s Transitional Housing Case Manager Angelica Payne remembers Krystal and Ivan’s uphill battle, but says their determination outshined their fears.
“Even though they were homeless, they were determined they were going to make it as a family,” Angelica said with a smile. “They didn’t allow anything to stop them. They just kept climbing and fighting, climbing and fighting—and it paid off.”
In addition to the financial coaching, job placement and a place to live, Humanitri provided them with other things to help make the transition a little easier: cleaning supplies, necessities, gift cards and toys and clothes during the holidays.
“United Way makes what we do possible,” Angelica said. “They make a difference in a lot of lives. I don’t know if people realize that United Way is in the background helping so many.”
“Humanitri allowed us to rebuild ourselves. They gave us the chance to pay our bills and build our money back up,” Ivan said. “They taught us how to get back on track and keep up with everything to prevent us from falling back into the same situation.”
Today, a year later, both Krystal and Ivan have advanced their careers and are more than content with how far they’ve come during the past three years.
“I’m proud of where we are now and the success we have,” Krystal said. “I don’t think we’d be in this apartment if it weren’t for Humanitri.”
“We were young. To fall that low and be able to come back from it is an amazing thing,” Ivan said proudly.
And amazing it is.
As for the future, the couple hopes to continue to grow their careers as well as their family. They also plan to use the financial tools and tips they learned from Humanitri to save for a more spacious living area.
“It’s hard to stand alone, but Humanitri is a wonderful agency that can help. They give you everything you need depending on your specific situation. If they have it, they give it,” Ivan said. “I’m so thankful they were there for us.”
“Life continues on, even when you’re homeless,” Angelica said. “[Krystal and Ivan] were struggling together as husband and wife. Sometimes that will destroy a marriage, but they were fighting together to make it. And they did, they made it. I believe if you can survive through a struggle like that, you can survive most anything.”
Humanitri’s mission is to break the cycles of addiction, poverty, incarceration, homelessness and abuse. They help families rise above their circumstances and make lasting changes in their lives, their families and their communities. Since 1990, Humanitri has received United Way support.
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