After a year of homelessness, Yusef has the key to the door of a one-bedroom apartment in low-income housing provided by Catholic Housing Services, complete with donated furniture and household supplies. That means he can follow the rigorous diet he needs to survive as a dialysis patient and, finally, get a good night’s sleep, undisturbed by other shelter residents.

“This is an experience I will never forget. I will never forget it. I’ll never forget all the help from the people who walked with me because I haven’t had that before.”

Yusef, a former resident of the CCS Nativity House Shelter Respite Program, is beyond grateful to the many CCS staff and volunteers who helped him move into his own place.

On the day she helped Yusef move into his apartment, Rusty Figler, CCS Volunteer Services Program Coordinator, reminisced, “I still remember the day I heard that Yusef called to cancel rides to his dialysis appointments because he was getting evicted. I’m going to try not to cry, but I have to admit that to see success is almost more heart-wrenching than to see failure.”

Before coming to CCS, Yusef had exhausted his work-related medical benefits and had reached out to county support systems to no avail. Fortunately, his courtesy call to CCS Volunteer Services prompted the formation of an individualized safety net of CCS programs: Volunteer Services, Catholic Housing Services, Nativity House Shelter Respite Care, and CCS Long Term Care.

Move-in day brings mixed emotions to CCS staffer Rusty Figler, who has been part of Yusef’s story for a year.

On the plus side of that long and occasionally frustrating effort, Rusty reflects, “I saw us succeed as an agency in places I would have never guessed. Once he was finally housed, several of our volunteers donated things. Many of them took him shopping. I can honestly say they were as happy for him as anybody could be.”

However, she remains distressed by funding regulations that made it so difficult and time-consuming for someone with a life-threatening illness to get housing. “I have my own medical concerns. What if something went wrong with me, and I ended up in that shelter?”

When it was time to sign his lease, Yusef found the process easier than anticipated. “By being in the situation that I was in, I expected more fight than I got. But, I guess I had gone through the fight already, and this was just the reward of coming out on the other side.”

That “fight” lasted a year, with Yusef continually advocating for himself and others experiencing homelessness. He resisted the psychological toll that shelter life can take on residents. “I pray that anybody that really wants an apartment and really wants to get out of that kind of situation will fight… that they will seek out help. Do it however you can do it. Climb out however you can get out.”

Yusef credits Tamara Kirkland, CCS Homecare Supervisor, with uncovering the solution that qualified him for housing. “I thank God that somebody saw the potential… because if it had not been for Tamara, I wouldn’t be in this apartment. So the thing about it is it wasn’t easy all of the time, but man, I thank God it ended the way it ended.”

Of course, the story is not entirely over. According to Rusty, CCS Volunteer Services will continue to give him rides to dialysis for as long as they can—he is very popular with their drivers! Tamara is happy that he is remaining in her caseload area. “I get the privilege and the opportunity to see him grow and continue to be successful in his apartment with his caregivers.”

A staunch advocate for all of her clients, Tamara is happy that Yusef found a home within her care area. 

Reflecting on the importance of CCS teamwork to outcomes, Tamara makes an analogy to the different ingredients and processes needed to make a great cake. “We get to taste the sweet part now. We have our client housed. And now it is the sweet part. To see him able to be housed and grow and be a successful person once again. Because, before he was homeless he was successful. Before he got sick, he was successful. So, for him to be able to do that again, that’s our cake. We taste the sweetness.”

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