This holiday season, we want to share with you a very important story of an individual who needed help, healing, and hope — and got just that at Sister Carmen Community Center, thanks to supporters like you.
Eight years ago, David moved to Lafayette with his teenage daughter and his dog Tuck.
“I was a teacher, and I absolutely loved it — connecting with kids, watching their minds grow. It’s amazing. I was always independent. Ever since I was a teenager, I always had a job, an income. I was good about saving money for emergencies and retirement.”
But in 2018, David was in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Even long after he was mostly physically recovered, David struggled to stay focused and get back into the classroom. These new and unique mental challenges led to the loss of his teaching job. “I lost my confidence,” David told us.
David’s daughter was now 18 and going to college, but he needed employment that would at least provide health insurance for the both of them. He took a job at a warehouse making a mere $15 per hour — not nearly enough to make rent, let alone to cover other basic necessities.
His savings dwindled down to almost nothing. He was exhausted, working up to 17 hours a day on his feet, and could feel it taking a toll on his body. David worked until he physically could work no longer, eventually losing his warehouse job as well. With the loss of his job came the loss of his apartment and his much-needed health insurance.
With Tuck by his side, David now faced homelessness. “I was couch surfing when and where I could. I was looking at YouTube videos on how to convert a car into a home. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from living up to everyone else’s expectations … with a great education, I could do anything I wanted up until the car accident — then it was one big slugfest. And it was pretty lonesome.”
David had heard of Sister Carmen when he first moved to Lafayette, but he had never asked for help before. Now, at his loneliest hour, David came to Sister Carmen and met with an Advocate who introduced him to resources and helped him make a plan.
The first step was getting him safely housed. We arranged a short-term rental for him to stay in until he was accepted into the long-term Housing Stabilization Program. “After that, I was drawing my first real breaths in a long time. There was so much depression and anxiety that came with living in my car. You have to be kind to yourself and really pull yourself through.”
In 2020, David got a job at a pharmacy and successfully exited the HSP program. He moved his way up to working as a pharmacy technician — a position that, luckily, was considered essential during the pandemic.
“I remember this was the first time I got to sleep in a really long time. When people show that they have faith in you, then you heal. If you show that you have faith in someone then they learn to have hope for themselves.”
In December 2020, before vaccines were widely available, another round of bad luck hit David: he caught COVID-19 and became extremely ill.
“I took ten days off work, but even then, I still had trouble getting out of bed. I could hardly breathe. I was also experiencing long-COVID symptoms like brain fog. My doctor suggested I cut back the hours I worked.”
In March it became clear that his employers weren’t willing to accommodate his new adjusted schedule, and David was once again let go. His landlord wouldn’t let him renew his lease, so he wasn’t protected by eviction moratoriums. Desperate, he turned to Sister Carmen again.
SCCC helped cover the first month’s rent and deposit to get him re-housed. We connected him to a rental assistance program for those who were financially affected by COVID-19 that will keep him safely housed for 12 months while he gets back on his feet. David’s goal is to find a job that pays a living wage again so he won’t be in danger of falling behind from one bad illness or some bad luck. His wish is to return to his true calling as a teacher.
“I have the confidence again and can remember that teacher in me, that’s prepared and connected with every student,” he recalls. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that being independent is good, but having a team is important. The people of Lafayette and the people at Sister Carmen became my family. It’s tough to ask for help. [Sister Carmen is] one of the only entities I know that will give people the benefit of the doubt… that will come from a place of empathy first and incentivizing instead of being disciplinary. And it’s always been consistent.”
David’s story is unique, but he’s one of hundreds of individuals that Sister Carmen Community Center helps every year. We ask that you consider not only them, but all the individuals and families who are in need of our help this holiday season. We can only do the life-changing work we do with the support of our community. Help us to offer hope and second chances by contributing today.
“I’m just so grateful. There really aren’t words. My advice to anyone in a similar situation would be simply to reach out. Don’t be afraid. Reach out. And beyond your wildest imagination, there is love for you in places you would never expect.” – David and Tuck