Our Stories

Home for the Holidays, and for Good

This is the story of Michael Elliot, who was homeless and fighting cancer when his life took a sharp turn for the better. Through a unique partnership with ProMedica Health in Toledo, where he was receiving treatment, Elliot was introduced to a LISC Financial Opportunity Center. There, he worked with a financial coach, who helped him secure a safe, affordable apartment and even begin saving money—all within a few months. Said Elliot, “It’s the greatest thing in the world that I have a place to call home.”

This story was originally posted on Toledo LISC:
Thanks to Financial Opportunity Center’s help, former homeless man has apartment for the holidays

The first time Michelle Gorsuch saw Michael Elliott – on Nov. 22, 2016 – he was wearing several brown rubber bands attached to each of his pant legs. Homeless at the time, Elliott was using the rubber bands to keep bed bugs from biting him while he slept at various shelters across Toledo.

A year later, the 64-year-old Elliott has his own one-bedroom apartment in Toledo’s Old West End — complete with a fireplace – after benefitting from Gorsuch’s guidance as coach and site administrator for the ProMedica Ebeid Institute’s Financial Opportunity Center (FOC).

“He’s made so much progress, and he deserves all the credit,” said Gorsuch, who helped Elliott budget his income from Social Security payments to stabilize his finances. “The best thing in the world with my job is the clients’ appreciation for helping them.”

In her 18 months at the FOC, Gorsuch has helped eight previously homeless individuals find permanent places to live. Like with Elliott, Gorsuch’s efforts enabled them to pay for things like rent and electric bills, sign up for food assistance and even open a savings account.

Within a month of their first meeting, Gorsuch had helped find Elliott his apartment, and he’s lived there since. Elliott, who over the last year also has undergone radiation treatments for prostate cancer – the cancer is currently in remission – deposits $100 a month into savings. It’s the first savings account he’s had in more than 30 years. Elliott said without the FOC, he’d likely still be on the streets.

“It’s the greatest thing in the world that I have a place to call home – I mean really call home,” Elliott said.

Seung Kim, senior director for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), said Elliott’s story of success speaks to the power of bundled services that address the whole person. LISC has tested and expanded the FOC approach (which integrates employment coaching with financial coaching with access to income supports) over the last decade to help low- to moderate-income people build smart money habits and focus on the financial bottom line. The cornerstone of the FOC model is providing these services in an integrated way—rather than as stand-alone services—and with a long-term commitment to helping clients reach their goals.

LISC supports more than 80 FOCs across the country, which provide financial and employment counseling services that help people overcome significant life challenges, from job loss to homelessness. They are managed locally by community-based organizations that are trusted, known for their history of providing quality services, and convenient to where people live. Kim said financial coaching boosts employment retention with the ultimate goal of helping building build their income, their credit, and their long-term assets.

“Families in our communities are hard-working and entrepreneurial – they’ve just lacked,” Kim said.

Elliott came to the ProMedica FOC through the health network’s food clinic, after being referred there by his primary care provider. The unique clinic provides healthy food and nutrition education to patients in need. ProMedica supports both the FOC and the food clinic as part of its commitment to addressing the social determinants of health in the communities it serves.

Elliott’s doctor, ProMedica urologist Emmett Boyle, said Elliott has completed radiation therapy and is now undergoing hormone therapy. “His disease was serious, but I anticipate he will do very well,” Boyle said of Elliott’s remission.

Elliott said his next step is finding a permanent job. He has worked as a dishwasher, factory worker and security guard, and with Gorsuch’s help, is hoping to find a full-time gig soon.

For Elliott, the past year has been a blessing. From sleeping on hard floors and patching up his pants to avoid beg bug attacks, to now enjoying a heated apartment has been a revelation.

“I’m just really thankful,” Elliott said.

Learn more about LISC Financial Opportunity Centers