Janelle’s Story

“I wanted to share my story about how I became a recipient of HIF and how it has impacted my life
immensely. In order to really understand the impact, I believe it is important to take a step back. I would say things really changed for me in 2010 when I went through a very difficult divorce, I was only 28 years old and I had already been through an abusive situation with my then husband, I lost everything in my divorce and had to file bankruptcy. Shortly after, I lost my mother to cancer in the same year. I found myself all alone with no family, my father had passed away when I was a child and I did not have anyone to turn to. I was deep in debt and did not have a way out. I had been working two jobs, sometimes three, for a number of years just to be able to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I still had college loans I needed to pay and I needed help.

Although things for me had not been easy, I was raised to always find ways to help others, my mother was a teacher and we were definitely from humble beginnings, but I found the importance in giving to others through her example. I chose to work in the nonprofit sector from the beginning of my career and had made it my life goal to support my community. In doing so, I sometimes took jobs that were not very lucrative but I preferred a lower based salary and to work two jobs rather than to be in a field that was not my calling. In 2018 I realized after all these years of working so hard that I might finally have to move on from being in nonprofits, solely because I no longer was going to be able to financially survive. It was a true catch 22, if I left the sector, I would have to go work in an environment that was not my passion. I knew that the families we served in the community would also be impacted, many who were in my same shoes and were making that difficult decision to either leave their jobs to go work in fields that they didn’t want to be in, or stay and barely survive due to high rents, and the cost of living.

At the same time, so many nonprofits were closing or moving out of the area, because they could not retain staff, and the ones suffering inadvertently was the community. I found HIF through a resource table at an event that I attended led by Sen. Scott Weiner, where he was addressing the crowd full of nonprofit employees around the housing crisis in the Peninsula. I remember attending with a coworker and the idea was for us to gather resource information for our families we served, I looked at the HIF flyer and I thought, this is for me! I work at a nonprofit and I am the same person I am trying to serve. I don’t have a way to make my rent every month, I am in over my head, barely keeping my head above water. I was very hopeful and really thought that it was my chance. I took a leap of faith and attended a workshop held by Inas Atawneh. I remember asking my supervisor if it was ok, due to the fact that it was during work hours. She told me it was fine, and she knew how many times I had come to her crying, letting her know, that I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to stay in my role, due to the pay. With my heart in my hand, I showed up to the workshop. I took a lot of notes, and I listened intently and I walked up right after and asked how to apply.

I was so generously treated by HIF and the staff, they continued to encourage me about finding a place that worked for me in terms of the area, and never gave up on me. I was able to move into a unit in San Mateo, near my work and the incredible weight it lifted off of me, is like nothing I can describe. I know that if I didn’t have the support of HIF not only would I have had to leave the area, I would have had to leave my job as well. I cried the first night I moved in, and as a consequence I was able to not only stop working 2-3 jobs but I was able to stay in the sector that I love. I now work for a college prep school in East Palo Alto that serves the youth of this community, who are first generation college bound students.

I know that we are changing lives, and the only reason why I was able to continue in this life changing work was because HIF changed my life. As things progress in the Bay Area and the cost of living changes, many, like myself are torn as to what will become of our future in our work, with the families we serve etc. That is why organizations like HIF are crucial, they support the important infrastructure in the community to be able to continue to live in the areas of work that they serve. I hope my story helps create an understanding of the dangerous domino effect it could have on our community if organizations like HIF didn’t exist. Thank you for your support!”

Please help us keep our nonprofit workers like Janelle housed by donating today. We are HIFStrong and you too can become part of our family!