Hands On Hartford

The Power of a Helping Hand

June 10, 2020

In honor of Partnership for Strong Community’s Heroes of Housing and Homelessness Week, we share this story of the difference a helping hand and a little persistence can make in the lives of our neighbors.

“Lena” came for breakfast at our Community Meals Program and reached out in a panic for help with her housing situation. During these hard times, she lost her job in March due to COVID-19 and like many others, she thought her unemployment claim was “lost in translation.” When we met her, she was three months behind on her rent. She was communicating with her landlord letting him know she was waiting on her unemployment and she would pay as soon as possible, but he started threatening to evict her if she did not come up with the rent. Although we reassured her that there is a moratorium on evictions at this time, she was still very upset, understandably, about the situation. Having a professional go over her lease agreement with her landlord can help her set out a plan on what to do next and see if there is some leeway allowed, especially with this time of uncertainty that has plagued so many. So many people need help and the after-effects of this pandemic will be felt for a long time.

Donessia, a Hands On Hartford program assistant, asked Lena to stay after the breakfast rush so she could help. She left that day. The next week she came back with the same story. Donessia told her again please stay, we’ll help you as soon as we are done giving out breakfast. Donessia was elated that she stuck around this time! Her English wasn’t the best but they were able to communicate enough for Lena to understand Donessia. Donessia made some calls and was able to ascertain that the state had issued a debit card to Lena with over $5,000 in unemployment benefits, but Lena had never received the card and was worried that it might have been stolen out of her mailbox.

After some digging around, Donessia got in touch with a very nice representative on the phone who helped resolve the issue very quickly. So, the problem was Lena’s funds were being deposited on an old card she had from 2 years ago. (She was receiving unemployment benefits 2 years ago then lost the card). What a relief it was for Lena to know that the money was there and not stolen. The representative was able to reissue her a new card that would arrive the following week. By the time they hung up, Lena was almost in tears and Donessia was a little teary-eyed herself. Now Lena can pay her rent and have some money left over!

This post was written by Kate Shafer, Development & Communications Manager at Hands On Hartford. You may contact the author at kshafer@handsonhartford.org.