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When Dennis Jaramillo became disabled and could no longer work his manufacturing job, his family lost their home. He and his wife, Bethany and their son, Bonefacio, lived in a hotel for more than a year. Even though Bethany was working full time, they struggled to make ends meet and were on the verge of living in their car. After contacting United Way’s 2-1-1, the Jaramillos were able to connect with Neighbor to Neighbor and received a housing placement. Now, their family is prospering with the stability of a home.
“Having this home means everything,” said Dennis. “Having stability and a safe place to rest our heads is such a huge thing, something a lot of people don’t think about until they don’t have a place. Being part of the Neighbor to Neighbor community…that’s family right there. I can’t believe all they have done for us – together with United Way. Our home is everything. It’s a place for all our love.”
United Way of Larimer County funds Neighbor to Neighbor programming, which includes housing counselors that meet face-to-face with those at imminent risk of having nowhere to live and help them develop a plan to overcome their immediate housing crises and continue their journey toward housing stability.
Last year, with funding from United Way, Neighbor to Neighbor prevented 63 families in Fort Collins and Loveland from eviction through personal budget education and connection to critical community resources. These families, like the Jaramillos, can now focus on building a bright future.
“While we were staying in a hotel I was working full-time, sometimes 12-hour days to pay for the hotel,” said Bethany. “It was very stressful and very expensive. We couldn’t get ahead.”
With the support of Neighbor to Neighbor, the Jaramillos are now on their way to becoming economically independent.
“At Neighbor to Neighbor, we work to connect residents to resources that support self-sufficiency as part of our collaborative work with United Way’s efforts to help working families thrive,” said Kelly Evans, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor.
Dennis is now working again, and Bethany helps care for the neighbor’s children.
“I got the greatest news,” said Dennis. “It took a while, but I got back into the workforce. I completed the Ticket to Work program for disability, and I had my interview for Teasdale Foods. I did my interview and testing, and it went really well. I was informed I got the job before I even left.”
Dennis is also working toward his GED.
“Our life has changed in so many ways since we’ve been here. Not having to stress – because that will run your life, it’s not good for anybody – but being here stress free, we’ve been able to focus on getting better mentally and physically,” he said. “We have a home. Everything we need is here, and we’re trying to go forward and better ourselves every day. That’s because we have this place. It's made me focus and want to get my education straightened up, not just for a better job or anything, but just to say I did it.”
“We want to show our kids that when you set a goal, as long as you do it, it doesn’t matter how long it takes,” Bethany added.
Prior to moving into their new apartment, Bonefacio was struggling in school.
“School was hard for him when we were homeless.” said Bethany. “He had to switch schools when we moved around, and it was really hard for him. Now that we’re here he has stable friends, and he is excelling at both reading and advanced math. He’s a smart kid." Bonefacio loves sports and spends a lot of time talking about sport statistics. He was recently able to meet professional players through a program with Realities for Children.
“He’s a math genius.” said Bethany. "He can look at numbers and figure out a problem like that, and it takes me forever with pen and paper.”
Bonefacio is looking forward to starting middle school in the fall.
“I think everybody’s been able to achieve more goals and be more successful because of the people that are in our lives now,” said Dennis. “United Way gave us the referral – just that one number changed everything. And now Neighbor to Neighbor is like family.”
“Community engagement is essential,” said Evans. “More than half of the families we serve experienced homelessness before coming to our program. This means the level of trauma experienced by children and families is high, and we want to do whatever we can to support them.”
Funding from United Way also supports staffing for Neighbor to Neighbor’s Youth Entrepreneur program, Resident Leadership opportunities and other engagement activities.
“The biggest challenge of our journey has been all the negativity you run into when you search for a home,” said Dennis. A lot of people look at you and think they’ve heard the story before. But the important thing is that there are places like Neighbor to Neighbor and United Way; there are real people that want to help.”
“We’re proof. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t know the answer until you call. I’ve been guilty of that myself. A couple of times I was so fed up…but my wife kept her head and she called United Way. They gave us the reference to Neighbor to Neighbor and the rest is history.
“Never give up. Keep your head up no matter what and keep your family in your heart. Things will change; they will get better; just have faith.”
United Way of Larimer County tackles issues that matter most to our community and uses a collaborative approach to accomplish more together. Our focus on Financial Stability creates pathways from poverty to self-sufficiency through job training, case management and access to resources and support. When you support United Way, you help real families, like the Jaramillos, build a bright future.
United, we strengthen our community.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County