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When a caregiver cares for herself, too

December 20, 2017

By Raven Feagins

Veronica* is the loving matriarch of her Chicago-area family. When she’s not taking care of two of her grandchildren, her mom and her aunt, she works as a talented seamstress. She’s open with her family about most things - except her own health status.

Veronica is living with HIV and has for the past 20 years. Most of her family, except her husband, don’t know her status. She prefers to be the caretaker they’ve always relied on rather than being taken care of. Since being diagnosed, she’s maintained an undetectable status.

This last year, outside stressors caused Veronica to become extremely ill, particularly when her husband – the family breadwinner –underwent a surgery that left him out of work.

"It seemed like the bottom just fell out from up under my family,” Veronica says. “I started getting sick, but I found myself tending to them more than myself. I was still taking my medication, but still not doing everything that I possibly could for myself to maintain … 2017 was not my year."

Veronica’s business designing and making clothes did not generate enough money to fully support her and her family and her husband’s last paychecks soon ran out. Already overwhelmed with overdue bills, Veronica’s family eventually received an eviction notice. Homelessness wasn’t new to Veronica and not a situation she wanted to be in again, so this eviction notice was her sign that she needed to ask for help.

"I went to one of the advocates at the clinic that I go to and I told him, 'I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I just don't know,'” says Veronica. “He told me about AFC and gave me a number."

Two days after making her initial call, she was connected to Alex Delakis, a Resource Specialist at AFC. Alex works to prevent people living with HIV from experiencing eviction, homelessness, foreclosure, and utility shut-off by providing temporary financial assistance.

Veronica made the trip from the suburbs into downtown Chicago to meet with Alex, and together, they went through the process for getting her approved for emergency rental assistance. After two months of working closely together, Veronica finally received the financial assistance she needed to keep her and her family afloat right as her stress levels reached their peak.

"Working with Alex, working with the rental company, working with my doctors … it was worth it. I feel this way: if you utilize AFC’s services and do what's necessary, you can come out of a great part of what you're going through,” says Veronica. “It does work. I’m a witness to that.” Veronica is still not completely out of debt, but she was able to receive $1,500 in rental assistance to cover the rough patch in her family’s life and, more importantly, she’s able to stay in her home.

Reflecting on her experience with working with Alex, Veronica says, "Because of these people, I am learning to accept help for myself. Someone once asked me, 'You take care of so many people, who takes care of you?' And I had to really think about that.”

Looking for temporary rental or utility assistance to help you through a rough patch? Head over to aidschicago.org/i-need/housing or reach out to our intake team at 312-922-2322 for your options.

*Not her real name

Categorized under Case management, Chicago, Housing and Inside Story.

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