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Her stay in the family shelter was brief, but the impact was long lasting

Living in the shelter was a huge relief. With a safe place to live, Jennifer could turn her energy toward looking for a better job.

13 years ago, Jennifer Wengeler found herself in a position where she needed to ask for help. She was a single mom of a 12 year old. She worked hard but had a chronic illness that zapped her energy.

She found herself in a position where she couldn’t afford housing for her and her daughter. Even though she was working, she wasn’t making enough. She was getting work through a temp service, but she needed a permanent job.

With her illness, she didn’t have the energy to work the temp job, look for a better permanent position, take care of her daughter, and keep a roof over their heads. She was afraid of ending up on the streets. She felt like she was out of options. That is when she found out about Community Action’s emergency shelter for families.

Living in the shelter was a huge relief. She could let go of her housing worries and focus on her next step. With a safe place to live, she could turn her energy towards looking for a better job. Community Action staff supported her in her job search and in finding stable housing. Because she was in the shelter, she was able to save her income for first and last month’s rent.

Jennifer landed a job at Winco as a cashier. The job came with medical benefits and the opportunity to accrue stock. With a secure job and move-in money saved, she and her daughter were finally able to get their own apartment.

Jennifer looks back on her time at the shelter as a major turning point. “You don’t realize what a major impact it will have on your life.” As someone who has worked hard her whole life, it wasn’t easy to ask for help. But she is glad she did.

Her daughter has since graduated from college – the first in the family do so. And Jennifer has her own business as a professional organizer and house cleaner. She loves the work and being able to set her own hours helps as she continues to live with illness.

Jennifer has not forgotten the fear of being out on the streets. That is why she volunteers regularly to help the homeless. She serves as an overnight host at the Extreme Weather Shelter at the Forest Grove United Church. “I live a paying-it-forward kind of life,” she says as she reflects on where she is now.