Elsa is a survivor of domestic violence. She married a man who abused her. She thought the abuse would stop after the birth of their son, but it didn’t. One day in March 2018, after a confrontation with her husband that left her with significant injuries, she scooped her 3-month-old son into her arms and left her marriage and her home. Elsa went straight to a local hospital to get treated for her injuries and then, she and her son moved into a shelter.
The shelter referred Elsa to Catholic Charities of Dallas (CCD) where she received help from its immigration services department and its financial stability and career services program. This marked the start to a new beginning for Elsa, but the path to that new beginning included several hurdles she would need to clear. In addition to needing to find a new home for her and her son, Elsa was facing a $19,000 medical debt from the hospital care she received after leaving her husband. Elsa also does not speak English, which made navigating life’s landscape without a support system difficult.
At CCD, Elsa worked with a financial coach who helped her create a plan to become independent. She shared with the coach that their interaction marked the first time she was explained anything about finances, because her husband didn’t permit her to handle money matters. She also shared that she wanted to know more about resources for her education.
The coach and Elsa first focused on finding a solution for the medical debt. Elsa provided the coach with the bills she was receiving from the hospital. On the bills, there was a paragraph about available financial assistance. The coach worked with Elsa to apply for the assistance by facilitating a phone call to request a financial assistance application and translating the language on the application so that Elsa could complete it. A few weeks after submitting the application, Elsa learned she was awarded 100 percent of assistance because her household income and size was at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty limit.
The next challenge to solve was Elsa and her son’s living situation. Since Elsa’s circumstances were the result of a domestic violence matter, the shelter facilitated her transition into one-room apartment in a community with free childcare. In addition, the shelter provided up to 18 months of no rent or bills for Elsa and her son. Once Elsa was in her new apartment, she was able to leave her son in the free daycare while she attended English classes once a week at another nonprofit agency.
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