For the past 15 years, Benjamin lived a life many of us can relate to. He worked in sales, got married, became a father to his now 13-year-old son, and ultimately separated amicably from his spouse.
Benjamin has worked since the age of 14, always providing for his family. The idea that he could face homelessness never crossed his mind until an otherwise regular day in November 2020 when he fell in his home and sustained serious nerve damage that impacted his ability to work.
Disability benefits from the state barely supported Benjamin and his son for a short period of time. When his sales position was subsequently eliminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he faced even tougher odds.
The six months after his accident were challenging and humbling. Benjamin was making sacrifices to keep a roof over his child’s head, put food on the table, navigate a global pandemic, and search for work that would fit his physical limitations. Circumstances and government issued moratoriums allowed rent payments to temporarily take a lower financial priority.
Although protections for renters were established due to the pandemic, Benjamin knew he needed to catch up on rent for the long-term security of both himself and his son.
In April 2021, Benjamin was connected to Orange County United Way and immediately recognized he was not alone, and that assistance was available.
“From that point on, I felt a tremendous sense of relief,” said Benjamin. “Despite being proactive and reaching out to many public resources previously, it wasn’t until I was connected to Orange County United Way that I knew I was going to be able to stay in my home.”
Benjamin was able to obtain help through an emergency financial assistance program made available by a partnership between local Government and Orange County United Way. A core tenant of Orange County United Way’s United for Financial Security℠ initiative, is committed to empowering Orange County families to get on the path from surviving to thriving.
To this end, Orange County United Way jumped in to orchestrate Federal and State COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance funding for thousands of residents, in partnership with the cities of Irvine and Santa Ana along with the County of Orange.
To support families and individuals through this process during a time of great need, the team leveraged powerful cloud-based technology to quickly develop an App to streamline aid applications as well as expedite approvals and funding. Additionally, a toll-free hotline was created to provide bilingual assistance to applicants seven days a week during the height of the pandemic.
After applying for funds using Orange County United Way’s App, Benjamin was approved for $10,000 to cover back-owed rent. The team also connected him with a local foodbank, which provided additional critical aid through this turbulent time.
Ultimately, Benjamin was able to find a sales position that would support him and his family. This program afforded him valuable time to land in a new role that would keep him productive and self-sustaining. With the support of Orange County United Way, Benjamin was able to regain financial control over his own life and the means to keep his home and car.
After being one step away from experiencing homelessness, he credits Orange County United Way with helping to get him back on his feet again.
“Working with the team at Orange County United Way was a really caring and nurturing experience. These people want to help,” he added.