I never used to think of myself as an advocate.I would just stay on the sideline and not get involved because it didn’t affect me or I didn’t know what to do. I’d just give up and go with whatever life dealt. But then my 4 year old, non-verbal son was diagnosed with autism. He needed so much care that I had to decrease my hours at my full-time job. His behavioral therapy sessions got up to 20 hours a week. My life turned upside down. Part-time employment meant I couldn’t afford my apartment, and suddenly the unthinkable happened: I was homeless.
Through Housing Families’ Family Advocacy Group, a fire was lit under me, and I began to speak up. I fought for food assistance so my children could eat and got more specialized teaching for my son. I’m advocating for housing subsidies and additional services so that I can afford the $400 a week in copays for my son’s therapy. As it’s not uncommon for autistic children to not be potty-trained until they are 9, 10, even 15 years old, I’m struggling to afford $47 every two weeks for his diapers. I’m fighting so that families do not end up in the situation I’m in, so that everyone knows that homeless people are not all lazy and out of work, so that if you make $53 over the limit, you aren’t denied hundreds of dollars in social security income.
I used to just let life happen, to give up without a fight. But after speaking at Housing Families’ Legislative Breakfast this year, I realized I am much stronger than I thought. I can do this, especially for the right people, especially for people who don’t know, who don’t have a voice, and who don’t have their own strength to fight.
-Natalika, HFI mom