Finding Toby’s Voice
At only four years old, Toby had already endured more trauma than most adults experience in a lifetime. Though outward appearances showed a normal preschooler, homelessness had taken its toll on his social and cognitive development. Compared with other children, homeless children are four times as likely to have development delays and twice as likely to have learning disabilities. While most children would have spoken their first word by age one, Toby had yet to speak. Lack of opportunities for normal social interactions with his peers left him isolated, unable to understand how to play with other children.
Then Toby and his family found our First Step Child Development Center. Located within Shelter Network’s transitional housing complex in San Mateo, the program provides subsidized childcare to homeless families. Parents work closely with a case manager, attending mandatory parenting classes and learning how to provide a warmer, more stable environment for their children. With a safe place for Toby during the day, his parents were better able to seek employment and work towards self-sufficiency.
Within his first month, Toby began working with an in-classroom therapist, learning to express himself with words and expanding his vocabulary. His consistent routine and exposure to other children gave him the confidence to begin to play. Today Toby can speak clearly, and is on his way towards expressing himself with age-appropriate language.
Peninsula Family Service gave Toby back his childhood and gave him hope for the future. Early education programs like First Step generate the greatest societal returns, reducing crime, welfare, and the cost of specialized educational services. Toby now has the tools to break the cycle of homelessness and enter the community on a level playing field.
Angela watched as the life she had worked so hard for slipped away. Drug and alcohol abuse left her, and her teenage daughter, without a place to call home. Lacking a personal car, commuting to her job each day meant a nearly two hour trip, and the resulting salary wasn’t enough to provide for her small family. Without access to reliable transportation, Angela was left to face a seemingly insurmountable barrier.
Here at Peninsula Family Service we’re giving people like Angela the tools to break down that barrier. Our Ways to Work Vehicle Loan Program gave Angela the opportunity to buy a used Toyota Corolla, cutting her commute time down to only ten minutes. With those extra hours each day, she pursued a degree in the medical field and replaced her minimum-wage job with one paying twice as much.
Access to a car not only reduces commute time, but increases access to childcare, education, and improved employment. While repaying our low-interest loan, participants can begin to rebuild their credit, contributing towards a more stable financial future.
Getting Back to Living
Overweight and diabetic, 69 year old Shirley needed an oxygen tank to walk even the shortest of distances. With her doctor’s warnings sounding clearly in her mind, Shirley knew it was time to make a change.
A presentation at our Fair Oaks Adult Activity Center showed her how simple changes could have wonderful results. Inspired to improve her diet and begin exercising, Shirley joined a walking club at Fair Oaks and began her journey back to healthy living. She started slowly, using a pedometer to track her workouts. She worked with the center’s staff to develop a fitness plan and three times a week, for fifteen minutes at a time, Shirley would walk. One-hundred pounds lighter and a whole lot healthier, Shirley was ready to get back to living.
Then life threw a curve-ball and Shirley was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to her lifestyle changes, Shirley was strong enough to beat the cancer all while volunteering at Fair Oaks. She continues to give back to the community that saved her life, organizing a presentation on “Living Well with Diabetes” between fitting in the center’s weekly soul-line dancing classes.
In the past five years the cost of diabetes in the United States has risen more than 40% from $174 billion to $245 billion. Sixty-two percent of that cost is paid for by government insurance, resulting in billions of dollars spent treating a preventable disease. By helping older adults like Shirley lead healthier lives, Peninsula Family Service is working to bring that number down.