Earlier this year, Jeremy, his wife, and their three children – were living in a motel room in Colorado. Jeremy was employed at a temp-to-hire construction company, where he was about to start working full-time. “I was working, trying to find a place, and trying to do everything I could to keep our family in a motel room,” Jeremy said. “Right as everything started coming together, COVID happened; and everything was swept out from underneath us.”
The Herfurth family lived in their car through a winter in Colorado, and they knew they couldn’t do it again, so they decided to drive home to Eugene, where they previously lived. Jeremy says, “I had to do what was best for my family.” Jeremy moved his family back to the community he called home.”
The family made their journey to Eugene four months ago, and were staying at The First Place Annex Night Shelter when they learned about ShelterCare. “I was going through every resource I could find, one by one, to see who could help us,” he said. “If I had found ShelterCare sooner, we probably would have been housed much earlier.”
Jeremy is honest, open, and caring. He says his past mistakes play a big role in his life’s circumstances, but he is working on turning it around. “I can’t say it’s not my fault,” says Jeremy. “I’ve lost jobs, and did stupid stuff in my past; but our case manager Sam has been coaching us the entire way, and helping us move forward.”
The family moved into their apartment on November 24, only two weeks after applying with ShelterCare. “The day we met Sam she helped us fill out a huge pile of paperwork, and she said: ‘We’re going to make stuff happen for you,’ and she came through on her word.” The following day, Sam had three apartments for the family to apply for. “Sam was our guiding light – our paradigm of hope – and we are so thankful for her support,” says Jeremy.
Sam Heath has been working as a family case manager at ShelterCare for six years, and has helped dozens of families overcome homelessness. She works in ShelterCare’s McKenzie Rapid Re-housing (MKRR) Program, which connects families to affordable housing, individualized case management, and temporary rent assistance while they get back on their feet.
“Sam is a genuinely caring individual who thinks about what’s best for her families in all aspects of their lives. She is an excellent advocate, and has found housing for folks that struggle with multiple barriers,” says Susanne Fendler, Program Manager for ShelterCare’s Housing Services for Families.
Through the COVID pandemic, Sam continues to help families via phone, and by holding “parking lot meetings.” “I first met the Herfurth family in a parking lot,” says Sam. “I pulled up to their car in the opposite direction, so we were facing each other, and we filled out a big stack of paperwork.”
In addition to intake paperwork, a significant part of Sam’s job is coaching families, helping them become good tenants, and building relationships with landlords. “Many of our families have lost their identification, or have other barriers – such as mental health conditions – that make it challenging to get into housing,” says Sam. “So we have to coach the families, teach them how to communicate, and build trust with their landlords.”
Through this journey, Jeremy says researching and applying for numerous services is what helped his family the most. “My biggest mistake in Colorado was putting all my eggs in one basket, and putting too much trust into one thing,” says Jeremy. “When we moved back to Eugene, I knew I couldn’t do that again, so I looked everywhere I could until we got what we needed.”
Several weeks after moving into their apartment, the Herfurth family had their home fully furnished by the Eugene Mission. “We are blessed, and are so thankful for the support we’ve been given,” says Jeremy. Every week, the family also utilizes St. Vinnie’s First Place Family Center for laundry; and have been receiving internet assistance for online schooling, thanks to the McKinney-Vento Act. Jeremy is also making use of local resources in his search for a full-time construction job.
One of the Herfurth family’s favorite activities is cooking. “We have a small kitchen so we have to take turns, but we all love helping mom cook,” says Jeremy. The family enjoys embracing their hispanic heritage by cooking meals like tacos, posole, menudo, and tamales.
The Herfurths are excited to celebrate this Christmas together, with homemade food and presents from their wish lists, which have been kindly sponsored by a local group of friends who calls themselves “the Amazons.” This group, and several others, helped ShelterCare brighten the holidays of nearly 50 families this year. Mom (Patty) asked for pots and pans, 11-year-old Jasmin asked for nail polish, 13-year-old José asked for a bean bag chair, 18-year-old Pepé
asked for a bike, and Jeremy asked to move into his home.
Your contributions make stories like this possible. Will you consider making a donation this holiday season? Your gift can provide families, like the Herfurths, with a warm, safe home as they face their challenges and learn to be self-sufficient again.
We are deeply grateful for your continued support. All of us at ShelterCare wish you a very special holiday, and a happy New Year!