Bringing a Unique Perspective and Compassion

Bringing a Unique Perspective and Compassion

As part of our Beyond Housing blog series, “It’s Personal,” we spotlight Opportunity Home employees who have been a part of our housing programs and make a positive impact everyday in our community through their experience, expertise, and dedication. 

As a former Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipient, she was able to steer her life in a new direction by taking advantage of supportive services that allowed her to explore new career opportunities and achieve self-sufficiency. 

Her Journey

A mother of two, she left an unsafe domestic situation and moved in with her mother. She was grateful to have a safe place for her and her children to live, but it was not ideal, with only one bedroom in the home. Alaniz did not want to be dependent on another person, opting to locate a place of her own to raise her children.

With limited options available due to her income size, she applied and got approved for the Housing Choice Voucher program through Opportunity Home. Alaniz received a voucher that gave her the opportunity to move her family into a safe, quality, affordable home. Moving into a stable home allowed her to focus on raising her children, setting goals for career advancement and furthering her education instead of worrying about how she was going to afford her rent. 

Alaniz received financial counseling and the encouragement to take advantage of available opportunities to improve her life. While facing the challenge of being a single, working mother and student, having housing stability for those four years gave her the opportunity to move into higher-paying roles and pay down her debt, leading to financial self-sufficiency.

“It’s so much of a help to have somebody just pushing you and saying, ‘Hey, here’s some assistance, but what are you going to do?’” said Alaniz. That’s the question that we ask ourselves — how am I going to make life better, not just for me and my family, but how am I going to give back? I was able to model that for my children.” 

Transition From HCV Recipient to Compassionate Advocate and Trainer

Alaniz joined Opportunity Home as a housing assistance specialist, and was able to draw from her own personal experiences in the Housing Choice Voucher program to display empathy for the clients she interacted with within her new role.

Understanding the stressors negative family dynamics or traumatic situations can cause, Alaniz became a listening ear to voucher holders and guided them through the process to receive housing services. She encouraged her clients to complete the necessary steps and engage with available resources and programs available — the same type of programs that allowed her to thrive in her community.

Currently a trainer at Opportunity Home, Alaniz shares her insights with new staff members, helping them better understand their clients’ challenges and the best ways to support them. She emphasizes the importance of active listening and treating clients with compassion.

“Now that I’m a trainer, I try to tell people when you are dealing with a client to let them speak,” said Alaniz. “Let them have their moment, and be a really good listener. They are often frustrated or worried, and sometimes they just need to vent. You will have to be thorough and ask them tough questions, but ask them gently and treat them with respect and dignity.”

Dispelling Myths and Promoting Understanding

As a former Housing Choice Voucher participant and current Opportunity Home employee, Alaniz wishes that everyone understood that housing assistance and supportive services are a stepping stone, and not a handout, toward self-sufficiency for residents who utilize housing support services.

She also wants people to understand that the HCV program may be the only option for elderly and disabled individuals on very modest fixed incomes to secure affordable housing. As housing costs continue to rise, Opportunity Home provides them a safe place to call home. 

“Nobody can do everything on their own,” said Alaniz. “You can’t help yourself if somebody is not there to guide you. And I think that’s what the program does. It teaches that you need to do paperwork, that you need to comprehend things, that you need to ask questions. All of those things that we should be doing as adults that maybe somebody was not taught. So we have to help them through that.”

Advice for Housing Choice Voucher Recipients: Setting Goals for Success

Alaniz advises participants of housing programs to set small goals and work their way toward larger goals. 

“Ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do next week?’” Alaniz advises. “What am I going to do next month?’ Make sure that you understand what your ultimate goal is, and what you’re trying to attain. If you are a parent, model that for your children. Opportunity Home can guide you and provide supportive services and resources, but you have to work towards your goals every day.”