March 26, 2020
When Champaign’s Asia Williams came to the RPC’s Emergency Shelter for Families (ESF) in June of 2019, she was in a desperate situation. Not only did she have no money and nothing in savings, she had been evicted from her housing, resulting in her and her five children being homeless and living in a car. Less than a year later, however, the way she has turned her life around to begin healing from a traumatic past has been nothing short of inspiring—and the reason she is the RPC’s Families of Distinction Awardee for 2020.
After ESF case manager Kerrie Pruitt helped Asia and her family secure shelter, the RPC provided Asia with a case manager as part of the Community Services Division’s No Limits program. Lena Hoch helped her identify barriers to stability while connecting her to additional resources and services in the community that could provide further assistance. Through a partnership between the RPC and the Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC), Asia was able to transition from the ESF to the Maple Grove Development Community, providing her and her family with transitional housing while she continued working with Lena through the No Limits program.
Asia began developing goals and a plan to address her needs, while building upon her strengths and learning and practicing skills to support success, such as employment skills, budgeting, organization, and the importance of paying her bills on time. It didn’t take long for her to determine her strengths and begin flourishing with Lena’s assistance. She became empowered and more confident in her abilities, working tirelessly on the small steps necessary to reach her large goals.
For the first time in her life, Asia’s hard work enabled her to sustain full-time employment—at an agency committed to assisting other people. A solid work ethic quickly made her a valued and dependable employee who the agency now calls upon to work extra hours. She also maintains a weekly schedule that shows her bills due, appointments, and all other tasks that she wants to accomplish during the week.
“Asia truly enjoys her new occupation and shows patience and kindness to others,” says Lena. “Thanks to her hard work and compassion, her employer has even rewarded her with a pay increase.”
Through the No Limits program and knowledge gained by attending the RPC’s All My Money financial literacy workshop, Asia has developed a spending plan and maintains a monthly budget, allowing her to pay her rent and all other bills on time. She has been accepted into subsidized permanent housing with the HACC. Thanks to her budgeting and the savings account she opened, she has been able to save enough money to pay for a security deposit (with extra left over for car repairs or other hardships that may arise).
Another RPC program that has been beneficial to Asia is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provided funds to help her address a power bill deficit that was proving to be a barrier in her efforts to obtain permanent housing. In addition, Lena provided referrals for food assistance to help offset food costs and meet the nutritional needs of Asia and her five children.
Asia continues to meet with Lena as part of the No Limits program each week to ensure that her and her family remain on their path to success. Thanks to her progress and stability, Asia was eligible for a referral from project-based housing to community-based permanent housing through a Move to Work voucher with the HACC. She has achieved safety and security in employment, housing, and basic needs. Now her focus in the months to come is on advancement, with Lena guiding and supporting her next goal of pursuing a degree in social work. In fact, Asia anticipates that she will start at Parkland College this Fall.
“Asia continues to establish and work on goals that will help her to move forward, with her driving force being the chance to create a better life for her family,” comments Lena. “She is a tremendous example of the resiliency and success that can be achieved despite trauma and homelessness.”
The RPC is extremely proud of Asia’s accomplishments and believes that she is an excellent representative of how the RPC’s Community Action Agency programming can help families. She will be one of 19 individuals or families honored at the upcoming Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA) Annual Learning Conference this Spring at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. The honor recognizes a family or individual who has overcome great personal and social obstacles in their pursuit of self-sufficiency with the assistance of a Community Action Agency.