Two Independence Care System (ICS) staff were recently praised by an ICS member who, despite facing a variety of challenges, was able to secure employment and address housing problems with their support.
ICS member Lisa Rivera, a wheelchair user who joined ICS’ Independent Living Program last year, decided she wanted a job. The program pairs supportive mentors with “mentees,” members who may need to improve coping skills, need advice on employment, exercise, dating and relationships, or overall guidance to live their best life with their disability.
Lisa was paired with Independent Living Associate Franklin DePaula, who is also a wheelchair user, and the two immediately connected and focused on fulfilling Lisa’s employment goal.
“I was interested in getting out there and having a job, although I had doubts,” Lisa said. “This was new to me. Franklin was helpful and encouraging.”
Franklin said that Lisa applied for different jobs, and wanted to support herself while being active in the community. “She said, ‘I’ve never worked before. I’m scared,’” Franklin said. “I told her, ‘I’m going to help you with this.’”
ICS member secures employment
Lisa said that Franklin was a major source of inspiration for her, and that his work with others and his encouragement allowed her to overcome her fears and what she thought would be a difficult process. While volunteering at Bronx Independent Living Services, Lisa was offered a paid position at the organization. She is now a Transition Specialist, obtaining referrals to help people transition from nursing homes to their communities so they can live independently.
“We meet with consumers or their guardians, and work with social workers to plan out how to transition consumers into the community and ensure they’re happy and have the services they need,” Lisa said.
Franklin described Lisa’s new job as special, and said he was proud of her commitment to entering the workforce. “I cried in that moment,” Franklin said. “It was emotional for me. I’m so happy for her.”
ICS assists with housing problems
Lisa also praised ICS for assisting her with longstanding housing problems. She recently went several months without gas in her apartment. After consulting Community Health Worker Tirso Velez, he was able to advise her and as a result, she was able to rectify the situation. Lisa said that Tirso, who is familiar with the challenges and lengthy procedures involved in rectifying housing problems, has also been instrumental in helping her contend with other quality of life housing issues that she was dealing with on her own.
“Lisa has a big list of housing issues,” Tirso said. “There are many violations in that apartment. She’s been asking for repairs for a long time. She had a few reports with 311 and she was already going to housing court.”
Problems range from frequent rodent and insect sightings, to uneven, cracked floors, holes and cracks in walls, mold in her bathroom, and problems with windows, among other things.
“It’s hard to walk on cracked floors,” Lisa said. “I can’t walk barefoot in my home because I can scrape my feet.”
Tirso, who noted that the length of resolving housing problems varies and depends on a person’s situation, exhausted many resources in an effort to help Lisa. Finally, Tirso connected Lisa with the Legal Aid Society. “They represented her in court—it looks like the case is going somewhere,” Tirso said.
Tirso has accompanied Lisa to court meetings to offer encouragement and support as she continues to address her housing problems.
ICS: offers hope and support
Lisa praised both Franklin and Tirso for their support, encouragement and goodwill, all of which have made a positive difference in her life.
“Franklin and Tirso have been amazing,” Lisa said. “Oh my God—ICS has been wonderful. There is no other program that does what ICS does.”
Franklin said his goal is always to go the extra mile for members, and he referenced ICS’ past Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Women’s Health Marilyn Saviola as a source of inspiration. “As someone who is disabled, ICS gave me an opportunity,” Franklin said. “Now, I work hard to help others like me.”
Tirso said that improving the lives of members like Lisa will always be his goal, and is the cornerstone of ICS’ mission. “Lisa is an amazing person,” Tirso said. “She’s a very strong lady who wants to grow in areas of her life. She has a big heart and we’re proud of her.”