Working hard for a better life

“There are people out there to help you if you just reach out and ask.”

Melissa, 33, knows what it’s like to survive on nothing. As a child with an alcoholic father, she remembers eating at homeless shelters for Thanksgiving and moving around a lot to different schools. When she suddenly lost her job in June 2017, she did everything she could to keep from losing her apartment. “The challenges I’ve been through in life have made me stronger,” she said. “But I was not going to be homeless again.”

After selling valuables, Melissa was still behind on nearly a month’s rent and waiting for her unemployment to be approved. Her social worker friend told Melissa to call United Way’s PA 2-1-1 Southwest. Melissa was referred to the YWCA’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative, funded by United Way’s United for Women initiative, and she walked into their office and asked for an appointment.

Within a couple days, Melissa got the necessary paperwork together to apply for assistance. She was approved for $500 in assistance that helped her complete her rent payment and stay afloat until she started receiving unemployment. “It was a lifesaver,” she said. “Without United Way, my whole life could have been ruined over a few hundred dollars.”

Melissa is now taking classes at PA Career Link to improve her job searching skills. She wants to find a job where she can give back and help people going through situations like hers. “Right now I have just enough to get by,” she said. “And I’m using all the resources I can to find a better job.”