During the month of November 2018, START was able to partner with First Lutheran Church in order to provide 34 different households with Thanksgiving turkey baskets and meals for the holiday. These donations were hand delivered prior to the holiday directly to these families’ homes by community volunteers. In addition to this, START was able to partner with multiple local businesses to create donation drives throughout the months of November and December for START families. Fired Up Nutrition, Cummins, Blackhawk Community Credit Union, Summit Credit Union and Azura Memory Care all hosted donation drives for warm winter supplies. Primal Strength and Fitness hosted their annual Squats for Tots Fundraiser in which 62 children and 34 different households have received 3-5 Christmas gifts each. All of these families also benefited from multiple hats, socks, gloves, scarfs, blankets and winter coats. START continues to accept and distribute these items throughout the cold winter months and these numbers continue to increase. Stoughton community members have also reached out to START this past month and have donated much of their time and energy to provide furniture including, end tables, dressers, beds (frames, box springs & mattresses), baby cribs, recliners, clothing, toys, kitchen tables and more (all brand new or slightly used) to START families in need. These generous donations have all been hand delivered directly to the homes of the recipients by the donors. START continues to provide a safety net for those in crisis through invaluable partnerships with community members, businesses, and faith based organizations. Without START, many of these households would not be able to celebrate the holidays warmly in their homes.
During the month of October 2018, START was able to partner with the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to assist a long term (intense case managed) client successfully complete and apply for Social Security benefits. At age 50, this single adult woman has been experiencing instances of instability related towards her housing for over one year. With no income to afford housing on her own she has been working hard to put her health as a main priority while also volunteering locally for almost 1 year, in hopes to gain work history and a reliable reference so that she can gain income and housing of her own. As her health continues to decline and she continues to be denied employment opportunities due to multiple barriers, disabilities and inability to perform certain tasks, she decided to accept help in applying for SSDI benefits in hopes to help her get back on her feet and gain more independence. After months of assisting her through job searches, connecting her to Employment Specialists, creating a resume/cover letter, practicing interviews, and also providing letters of recommendation/support on her behalf, START acknowledged her needs. The Program Director partnered with the ADRC to provide an in person collaborative approach related towards her health, history and inability to work full time. After an in depth assessment, the ADRC agreed to work with this woman on a case management basis to support her throughout this process. While meeting with both of our programs regularly she now has a solid support system and a higher possibility of securing benefits which are essential to her survival and ability to improve her quality of life.
A Stoughton single mother of 4 was desperate to receive help in pursuing higher education after years of working part time jobs. Without the ability to secure full time stable employment due to not having a High School Diploma or GED she was unsure where to begin. After working with START on a case management basis for over 5 years she had set goals to obtain her GED several times but had many life altering situations which did not allow her the ability to actually begin this process. After many coaching conversations related to the importance of gaining her diploma she finally felt prepared and ready to begin working towards her lifelong goal. She had experienced several instances of unemployment and homelessness over the past few years and was ready to work towards this goal in order to provide stability for her family. START was able to provide her with financial assistance towards her testing fee’s in order to reduce these barriers for her. She stated that she is excited to finally be able to confidently pursue this goal while being a role model for her children. She mentioned that she wants them to look up to her and know that graduating high school is a priority and that having an education is important to their own success. She continues to meet with the START Program Director on a regular basis for support.
During the month of August 2018, START applied for 4 twin size beds on behalf of a Stoughton family of 6 through Slumberland Furniture. After recently being connected to case management with our program through a Food Pantry referral, it came to START’s attention that 4 children had been residing on air mattresses in their home for the past 3 years. With limited and fixed income from the parents (which is utilized monthly towards household bills including, rent, utilities, health insurance, etc.) the parents had been unable to save money in order to purchase beds for their family. The youngest child (age 8) had recently been sleeping on wooden pallets placed on the floor, and her air mattress popped due to a mice infestation in the home. The Stoughton Area Resource Team Inc. (START) program was able to provide her with a small twin size air mattress to remedy her sleeping situation until beds could be secured for all of the children. Without a good night’s rest their education will become affected and their levels of stress will increase significantly. They deserve to have something suitable to sleep on and these donations would be utilized in appreciation and gratitude. In addition to the children sleeping on air mattresses and wooden pallets, the parents had been doing the same. START was fortunate enough to receive a donation of a queen size bed, frame and box spring which was provided to this family through a community member’s generosity. START helped assist in the transportation and delivery/pick up of this donation. START is hopeful for the approval of additional beds through the Slumberland grant request and expect a response within the next month. Without START, the family would have likely maintained their unsuitable sleeping situations.
“I first want to thank you and God for all the blessings and good fortune that is provided towards all people, especially my family. Thank you for your kindness and support, I don’t have the words to express my true appreciation. Thank you once again for having such a kind heart and helping my family the way you have. I know there are many others who need your help and I am hoping to gain employment with someone willing to give me an opportunity to work in order to take care of my problems myself so that I can in return help others, as you have helped us.”
START was able to make an impact on the life of a 54 year old single woman who has been homeless in Stoughton for the past several months. While working with her on an intense case management basis in hopes to help her gain income through securing employment, START was able to help her gain volunteer opportunities on a regular basis in hopes for her create “work” history. In addition to this, START has been able to make an impact on her overall health and wellbeing. While stating that she often feels as though START is the only place she can go to be heard without judgement, she has made progress in July by applying for several employment opportunities and maintaining her volunteer commitment for 6 months. Without a vehicle or any means of transportation, she relies solely on walking to get to and from pantries and local resources. After her health has been significantly declining she set a goal with the START Program Director to get connected to healthcare services in hopes to address some of her health concerns. While continuing to maintain her “employment” through volunteer opportunities at the Stoughton Senior Center which START advocated for her to receive, she began to feel productive every week while having a purpose to get up every day. She started meeting regularly with a Primary Physician and is now making her health a priority in her life. As a small victory she was able to receive tennis shoes which were not worn and did not have the soles completely warped. This provided her with the ability to continue walking every day to and from her “work experience”. The smallest change for something so important has given her the motivation to keep trying without giving up. START maintains weekly connection with her in hopes to help her gain stability.
During the month of June 2018 START was able to help a new single mother of 2 with rental assistance in order to prevent her from becoming past due on her bills related to her housing. After her children’s father unexpectedly passed away she was left to manage the household bills on her own. In order to maintain her housing she decided to get a second job in hopes to keep up with her monthly bills. START was able to help supplement these costs until she received her first paycheck from her new employer. She and her children are adjusting to their new lifestyle and managing day by day throughout their grieving process. They are hopeful to be back on their feet financially within a few short weeks.
START was able to advocate for a single mother of 4 who works full time in order to support her family. After being homeless and couch surfing while moving from home to home and temporarily staying with family, she was approved for an apartment in Stoughton which was her hometown. She was unable to cover the cost of first month’s rent in addition to the security deposit. While she continued to work and save money towards these costs, START negotiated a payment arrangement and move in date with her landlord that was realistic for her. As she continued to save towards these costs START stayed in connection with her landlord to ensure that the move in costs would be paid on time. In addition to support from START financially she was able to secure more than half of the amount needed on her own. Her 4 children who are all in elementary school in Stoughton were able to gain stability in their housing and no longer doubled up with relatives. The security of having a home of their own will provide the children with an opportunity to focus better at school and will likely help to increase their grades and participation in class. She follows up with the START Program Director on a regular basis and is hopeful about maintaining her own housing going forward.
During the month of April 2018 START was able to partner with the Professional Life Coaching Program at the University of Wisconsin in conjunction with Brenton Eastabrooks to provide a 3-4 hour workshop for START participants. The workshop was geared towards providing 9-10 START participants with an opportunity to plan, prepare and overcome personal barriers and challenges in their lives while also setting short and long term attainable goals. Participants spent the first half of the workshop completing a “Wheel of Life” exercise in which they were able to reflect on all areas of their life including but not limited to: friends, family, financial, health, home, work environment, etc. They were able to identify how satisfied they were with each of these different areas in their own life. After rating their satisfaction they were able to debrief and process through their findings while they received 30-45 minutes of one-on-one life coaching with students and professors of UW Madison. After this, participants were able to work directly with the START Program Director to create a minimum of 3-9 short and long term attainable goals including, barriers, strengths, target dates, supports and accountability factors. Following this exercise they were then able to participate in an exercise where they took ownership of their commitments. Each person stated out loud one commitment/ specific action goal that they plan to follow through with immediately along with identify one thing they would need to “let go of” in order to reach this goal. The participants were provided with a working lunch and an opportunity to connect and build relationships and connections with fellow neighbors. Participants shared that they have never had a space where they felt they could truly share their thoughts and feelings while being heard and having an opportunity to focus on themselves. The START Program Director has been continuing to work with these participants on a case management basis to provide follow up towards their experience and help them to continue working towards achieving their goals while overcoming personal barriers and challenges. All participants of the workshop received a framed Certification of Completion which they were able to take with them.
During the month of March 2018, START partnered with several community based organizations to connect a single mother of 4 with help towards a significantly high past due utility bill. While relying on child support payments to cover the cost of her monthly utility bills, this single mother was unable to provide the full amount owed to the local utility company over the cold winter months due to a reduction in payments received. While understanding that her heat and water could be disconnected within the upcoming month she reached out to START for support and resources to help her pay towards the amount owed. START was able to connect her to the Emergency Assistance Grant which is offered through the Dane County Job Center for families with minor children. In addition to being connected to this grant opportunity START advocated for her through communication with Energy Assistance who would be able to match any amounts paid to the utility company. She continued to meet with these programs separately while providing them with extensive history of her bills paid and income to date including her reasoning for an inability to pay. She was then partnered with Joining Forces for Families in hopes to receive dual case management to better support her in budgeting and maintaining stability going forward. START was able to connect with the local utility company in order to prevent a disconnection on the date scheduled and through STARTS advocating, she was able to receive an extension while working hard towards paying off the amount owed. Her 4 children, 2 who are under the age of 5 will be able to remain warm in their homes without the risk of losing heat during the cold weather ahead.
During the month of February 2018 START was to help a young single adult male work towards his goal of obtaining an HSED/GED through a program that could be successful for him. After meeting with him and discussing his short and long term goals he shared his desire to obtain a more reliable job while having stability for his future in a career that he would be proud to work in. After working several low paying jobs that were temporary and/or part time he has struggled to maintain his independence as single male in his early 20s. He has thought numerous times about the possibility of pursuing his diploma but did not have the ability to make this goal a priority as he had other commitments and responsibilities that required his immediate attention such as paying rent, utilities and other regular monthly bills. After hearing his desire and dedication towards pursuing his diploma or equivalency START began to brainstorm different options with him. He had connected and reached out to several different technical colleges in the surrounding area to understand what the time commitment and expectations of the program would be. He was concerned about his ability to pass tests required without any additional support and was also worried about having his income reduced due to time spent taking these classes rather than working.
The START Program Director listened to his concerns while also hearing his motivation to be able to achieve this goal. START was able to connect him to Operation Fresh Start (OSF) which provides intensive on the job training while also providing education, tutoring, and much more to help young adults obtain their diploma or equivalency. After strong advocating from the START Program with Operation Fresh Start he received several in person interviews for this opportunity. By the end of the month he had been accepted into the program. He will receive a small financial stipend monthly for the training that he will be receiving daily in a work skill that he can take with him after he receives his diploma. The program will provide wrap around services to him including, tutoring, mentoring, coaching, case management and more. Their goal is to help him secure stability in all areas of his life, not just obtaining his diploma. It took him courage and bravery to surpass all of the barriers and worries that came with putting school as a priority vs “just trying to make it each month”. He was his own best advocate, the START Program listened to his goals, concerns and desires and supported him along the first hurdle of his journey. START will maintain a support system to him through intensive case management in collaboration with Operation Fresh Start. The Stoughton Area Resource Team (START) will also be an outlet towards receiving resources and support towards his monthly rental costs while he is enrolled in this program to assist and alleviate any barriers in hopes to help him succeed.
In January 2018 START was able to assist a 30 year old single father. After doubling up, couch surfing and experiencing homelessness while sleeping in his vehicle this single father of 2 was ready to begin taking steps towards gaining his independence back and providing more stability for his children. With little to no support from his immediate family he and his 2 daughters lived day by day struggling to find a place to sleep at night for over 5 years. After becoming connected to Building Bridges which is a 3 month intense case management program offered through the Stoughton Area School District he was connected to the START Program for continued and ongoing case management support. After meeting with him regularly and staying in contact as often as possible START began to create short term goals which were attainable and contributed towards his overall long term goal of securing housing of his own. After meeting with the START Program Director related to these objectives, he began to develop goals of securing employment which would increase his income and ability to find a landlord willing to accept him. While his youngest daughter is under the age of 5 and is unable to attend school, securing and maintaining full time employment was difficult for him as he did not have reliable daycare. After reaching out to several different employers he was able to gain employment with 2 different part time jobs that worked around his needs. With this increased income he advocated for himself to private landlords while explaining his lack of rental history and difficulties in maintaining employment. START was also able to fiercely advocate for this family while staying in connection with potential landlords. After weeks of maintaining stable employment he was able to connect with a local landlord who provided him with a second chance. He now has a move in date for his new found apartment and has stated that he has a new motivation and outlook on life. He expressed his great appreciation for the services that have helped him throughout his journey. He continues to meet with the START Program Director on a weekly basis and continues to work towards building himself back up. He stated he will not stop until he is proud and that this is the first time in 5 years that he feels hopeful about his future and his ability to provide for his family
START was able to assist a single mother of 2 who had been trying for months to catch up on past due bills that she had worked hard to pay off. She had been picking up as many extra shifts as possible at work in hopes to be in good standing again. After losing extra hours at work and spending down her life savings she knew she would not have enough money to cover the cost of rent and utilities in addition to contributing towards a payment arrangement for past debt owed to her landlord. As a single mother of 2 teenagers she had expressed her financial concerns to them and stated that they would not be able to celebrate Christmas with gifts or their favorite foods. Her youngest daughter age 16 was understanding of her mother’s priorities and offered to use money that she had saved from her part time job to help pay towards their bills owed. With still not enough money gathered to pay off a large past due balance owed, the mother contacted the START Program Director for help. After doing an extensive budget, START was confident that she would be able to pay her regular monthly bills once her past due balance was paid in full. While helping her to pay off the amount owed to her landlord she was able to pay the current’s month’s rent on her own. As a proud mother she shared that her oldest son is preparing for college with 2 scholarship opportunities, one being with the University of Wisconsin Madison. While content that she would not be celebrating Christmas with gifts and food, START was grateful to have been able to also provide her with gift cards to Walmart which were donated to our program through a Christmas donation drive. She felt overwhelmed with gratitude that she would be able to surprise her children with Christmas gifts and also said she is grateful to share with them that they would not be losing their housing before the holiday. She was excited to share the relief of having her past due rental debt paid in full while being motivated that she will now be able to get back on her feet. She thanked the START program for being a support to her when she had lost hope.
START assisted a single mother of 3 young boys during the month of November. After having several medical appointments for her youngest son the mother of the family began to miss work and began to fall behind on rent. Her youngest son was struggling with a severe medical need which would require surgery and the need for the mother to be home to care for her son. Thinking about the future and upcoming bills the mother reached out to START to see what resources were available to her during this time. She had been picking up as many hours as possible at work but knew she was not going to be able to cover the cost of her bills. She was able to contribute as much as she could towards her rent but was still past due and knew that she was going to continue to struggle next month as she would be off after her son’s surgery. START helped this woman connect to resources for potential help with rent while also contributing towards her past due amount owed. She had received a 5-day notice and was extremely worried that she and her boys would become homeless during the holiday season. START connected with her landlord while creating a payment arrangement to remedy the remaining amount owed. In addition to contributing towards rental assistance for this family START was able to help this mother receive Christmas gifts for her 3 young children. With limited income to afford her monthly bills she knew she was not going to have enough money to purchase gifts and winter clothing for her children. START was also able to purchase winter boots, hats and mittens for her young boys. With the help of START the mother was able to receive relief in knowing she and her boys would not become homeless.
During the month of October 2017 START reconnected with a single mother of 3 who was relocating to a different housing unit after experiencing a difficult separation from her ex-husband in which she and her children found themselves without a place to sleep permanently. START worked closely with her therapist who served as an advocate for her during this hardship in her life. START provided financial assistance to be used towards her move in costs for an apartment in town while also providing and delivering donated pieces of furniture to make her new apartment a home. She and her children are no longer without housing and have been able to settle into their new apartment without the stress of worrying where they would sleep at night.
After unexpectedly losing her husband to a terminal illness START met with a grieving woman who was adjusting to changes in her household monthly income. She was concerned that her electricity was going to be disconnected after receiving notice from the local utility company that she was behind on her monthly payment. She had reached out to START in previous years but had been able to manage her monthly bills without needing ongoing assistance for the past 12 months. After the death of her husband and with nowhere to turn, she contacted the START Program Director to see if she was still able to receive help with her current utility bill. START met with this woman to discuss her adjusted income and to work on a new household budget and money management. START was able to assist her financially in order to prevent the utility disconnection. After meeting with the START Program Director numerous times throughout the month of September, she developed a list of short and long term goals. After following up with the START Program Director she shared that she had reached one of her large goals of securing more affordable housing. She shared that she was grateful to have been able to work through these difficult life changes while having somewhere to turn. After being accepted and approved for an apartment closer to family which was also less expensive she now feels hopeful that she will be able to have more support during this difficult time in her life.
During the month of August 2017 START was able to help a homeless single adult male secure housing after doubling up and staying temporarily with friends for over 4 months. After experiencing a very traumatic life change in which 2 of his immediate family members passed away, leaving him as the only remaining member of his family unable to afford the cost of rent he became homeless and suffered with severe depression and anxiety. When connecting to START on an intensive case management basis he was provided with education and awareness of services related to his mental health. After meeting numerous times each week he began to work on a housing plan to end his homelessness which included securing stable employment. After reaching his goal of securing employment START was able to connect him to the Folks Wagons program in which he received a reliable vehicle at no cost to him which he was able to use to get to and from work in the Madison area. START continued to support him throughout his journey of securing housing while advocating for him to local landlords and property managers. START was able to provide a professional letter of recommendation related to his previous housing situation which ended and was out of his control. After connecting with a local landlord who was willing to accept him START was able to provide a portion of first month’s rent in order for him to no longer double up with friends. He had worked hard over the past several months to build a savings which he used to contribute towards the majority of the first month’s rent and security deposit. He has now moved out of his temporary housing situation and has signed a lease in his own name. START was able to provide him with donated pieces of furniture for his new apartment as he had lost most of his items during his stage of homelessness. After now residing in his own apartment he has continued to work full time while putting money into a savings account in hopes to have a safety net of his own. START was able to support and advocate for him in order to help end his homelessness.
During the month of July 2017 START connected with a single mother of three who has resided in Stoughton for 1 year. As she and her family are considerably new to the community she was unfamiliar with several resources available to her and her family. She reached out to START for utility assistance and additional funds needed towards her rent after receiving a 5 day written notice. START was able to provide case management services along with rental assistance with the use of SIEMER funds in order to help stabilize this family. START was also able to connect her with a Joining Forces for Families (JFF) case worker to receive dual case management and rental assistance. Through collaboration with several different organizations in Stoughton, this single mother was able to have the total amount owed towards rent paid in full without causing a disruptive move. START also provided her with contact information for 2 food pantries which are available in town along with contact information for the Personal Essentials Pantry (PEP) which she was also unfamiliar with. START and JFF continue to work with this woman on a case management basis to help stabilize the family. One of the children is school aged and is newer to the Stoughton School District since moving to Stoughton 1 year ago and is in middle school. Prior to moving to Stoughton the family was homeless for 2 months while residing temporarily in hotels when they could afford it. When not staying in hotels they were able to double up with family and friends. Maintaining positive grades in school was difficult for her daughter while they were literally homeless. Since connecting to support systems and maintaining housing the daughter stated she is able to enjoy school more without worrying that she will have to move again.
In June 2017 START was able to provide intensive case management services to a single mother of 2 who had been previously homeless prior to connecting to START. She was worried that her family was going to have to relocate out of the City of Stoughton due to receiving an eviction notice from her landlord. She had maintained stable housing for several months but recently had a change in her income after switching employment. She was referred to the START program through the Stoughton Area School District Social Worker to receive help in maintaining her housing. After meeting with the START Program Director she shared several goals that she had hoped to obtain while in connection with our program. One of the larger goals that she was hoping to achieve was securing affordable healthcare for her and her children. Since changing her employment she was unsure as to how and where to receive healthcare going forward as she had not done this on her own in the past. START worked with this woman on a weekly case management basis to help her obtain health insurance for both she and her 2 school aged children. Her oldest child is 17 years old and is in 11th grade and likes to participate in school sports when he is able. Her daughter is 9 years old and is in 3rd grade and enjoys arts and crafts. All three members of the household were without health insurance prior to meeting with the START Program Director and were at risk of losing their housing. Since continuing to meet with the START Program Director on a case management basis they have all secured affordable health care and rental assistance in order to prevent an eviction. The mother stated her appreciation and gratitude to the school social worker for connecting her to the START program in which she was able to achieve some of her short term goals.
During the month of May 2017 START provided intensive case management services to a single adult male who was struggling to secure health insurance after recently losing coverage related to his disability. While not being able to work and having been approved for Social Security Disability (SSDI) he now was adjusting to having a fixed income. He was informed that he was not eligible for health coverage through Medicare for a minimum of 1 year and that he must secure an alternative form of coverage until he is Medicare eligible. This left him in an extremely stressful and worry-some situation as he relies on several different medications every month to regulate his health. The cost of his prescriptions without insurance each month were way out of his budget and were too high for him to afford so he became very concerned as to how he was going to manage his health going forward. He connected with the START Program Director to learn more about what options were available to him. After first providing him with information related to the Stoughton Shalom Free Health Clinic, the Program Director helped him to apply for affordable healthcare through the Marketplace while also connecting him to the WI Department of Health Services. START was able to provide weekly case management to support him through this process. START also helped him to apply for healthcare assistance for his new monthly premium through the United Way of Dane County Health Connect Program in hopes to make this health coverage more affordable. He now has secured reasonably priced health insurance through Group Health Cooperative while being able to afford the cost of the monthly premium. He no longer has to worry about the risks of being uninsured while not taking his medications. START was a resource for him to reach out to while also being an advocate for him through this very important time in his life.
During the month of April 2017, START was able to advocate for a single adult woman who had been homeless for several months after losing her employment and not being able to find a landlord willing to accept her. After being turned down and denied by several different landlords and property managers she lost hope and resulted to sleeping her car while keeping it turned on at night to provide heat during the cold winter months. She had been applying for work daily in hopes to end her homelessness and be able to reside in her own apartment. After finally securing a local full time job, START was confident that she would be able to maintain the cost of rent. After connecting to a landlord who was willing to overlook her unstable rental history, START was able to discuss the landlords concerns along with the client’s goals, in hopes to mediate and support the client’s ability to become more independent while residing in her own home. After meeting with the landlord in person to alleviate any barriers related to housing concerns, the young woman was approved and was able to move into her apartment within days of START making this connection. She benefitted from the START program by having an additional means of support and by having an advocate when needed related to ending her homelessness. She has now been stably housed while maintaining her full time job and slowly regaining her rental history. She thanked the START Program by sharing, “You have given me faith and really made a difference in helping me get back on my feet.”