“Betsy” and her 5-year-old son were two days into their journey out of homelessness. After three months of living in their car, with Betsy still managing to get to her shifts at a pizza place and keep up with her Daytona State College coursework online, they had come to stay at Family Renew Community’s DeLand Residential Campus for families experiencing homelessness. Then an unexpected obstacle arose. Betsy was exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 while training a new hire at the restaurant. A rapid test came back positive. She could not work, and would have to hole up in her Family Renew apartment with her son, who also tested positive, until the virus cleared.
Betsy feared for her health and that of her son, and also for chances of lifting the two of them out of homelessness any time soon. Kim Bandorf, program manager for Family Renew’s DeLand campus, assured her she was not alone and that there was much for which to be grateful.
“If they hadn’t just moved into Family Renew, they would have had to quarantine in their car,” says Kim.
That was in June. Blessedly, neither 24-year-old Betsy nor her son became ill. But a month and three days passed before Betsy got a negative test result. With no worries about rent or utilities to pay, and expert guidance from Kim, Betsy was able to keep moving forward on the path out of homelessness.
She applied for pandemic unemployment benefits, saved money and settled the outstanding eviction debt that was blocking her access to housing. She continued her college coursework online.
Kim shopped for and left on the doorstep groceries for the mother and son, including some that encouraged them to have fun while cooped up together in the second-floor apartment.
“I sent up a lot of baking stuff. They baked cookies. They baked muffins. They baked everything,” Kim says.
When the ordeal was over, Betsy went back to work at the restaurant. But her time in isolation had strengthened her resolve to reach for more. Nearly done with her associate degree, she searched for a higher-paying job. In November, she landed a position as a leasing agent for an affordable housing complex, and moved into a two-bedroom apartment there with her son, who just turned 6.
“She’s very happy, and it’s a rent she can manage on her salary,” Kim says. “If she sets her mind to something, she does it no matter what. Nothing’s standing in her way.”