Paying It Forward

Dan Gregory June 12, 2017

by Dennis Sanders, Content Specialist

Being homeless is not easy, but it is even more difficult when you are homeless with a child.  It becomes even more challenging when that child is a special needs student. 

This is what Jenny is facing today.  Jenny is a guest at Families Moving Forward-Southwest in Chaska.  Jenny has been without a home for several months after breaking up with her boyfriend to provide a better environment for Mikey.  Jenny is the legal guardian for Mikey, a 13 year old with an autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.  Mikey goes to a special needs program in Scott county.  Jenny wanted to give Mikey[LV1]  a sense of normalcy- which is important especially for someone on the spectrum.  She heard about Families Moving Forward which is where she has stayed for the past few weeks.  Jenny had hoped to find housing quickly, but she faces challenges: an eviction on her record and the fact that she is unemployed.  Jenny wants to work, but she needs to have someone to look after Mikey while she works.  With the help of Families Moving Forward Southwest Program Manager Claire DesHotels, Jenny is trying to pay for some kind of care for Mikey which would allow her to work.

All of the barriers Jenny faces take a toll on her.  “Not being able to provide housing makes me feel like a failure,”she said.  The feelings get worse when she is denied again to pay for Mikey’s care. However, Jenny doesn’t give up telling others that she will hang on to the end of the rope and not give up in finding a home and care for Mikey.

Mikey turns 14 this fall and is doing rather well in school as an A and B student.  Living in the shelter can be overstimulating for someone with autism like Mikey, but he has been able to handle it.  Jenny stresses again that she needs to keep him in his school because her grandson doesn’t need more disruption which can make life difficult for someone on the spectrum.

Asked why she wanted to be interviewed, Jenny said that it was about helping others.  “I believe in paying it forward,” she said.