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The Smith family came to us on a hot day at the end of June 2017. Sophia, a veteran, was parked in her van at ECHO’s front door waiting for us to open. She was accompanied by her mom, her disabled adult sister, her two daughters (ages 7 & 4) and the family pet, a cat. All 5 of them and the cat were living in their van.

ECHO made arrangements to get them into a shelter that would provide them with safe accommodations and allow the cat to live in the van while housing was being obtained. Exceptionally Competent Hands Operating on behalf of the Smith Family led to amazing results in a short period of time. We knew this would be a process so we didn’t want to overwhelm Mom, therefore, we laid down one stone at a time and led her step-by-step until she reached her final destination. ECHO started the path by providing financial assistance and moving the family to permanent housing July 2017. We were able to furnish their home with the assistance of private donations from a local family that even included linens, kitchen utensils and other household items necessary for successful beginnings.

Housing was a big first step but the family still had many other needs that required attention. Sophia had transportation but the tags and taxes were delinquent so we reached out to Welcome Home Vets and they provided her next step by getting her van back on the road legally. This family had been in their van for an extended period of time so the children were missing the records necessary for them to begin school. ECHO assisted with the huge step of completing the paperwork needed for the children to attain birth records, shot records, social security cards and Medicaid cards. We contacted Little River Medical Center and together with Mom’s cooperation we were able to get all the paperwork necessary and register the children for school. The children received their immunizations and walked through classroom doors for the first time in their life! The seven year old felt so safe with her case worker that she called and asked her how she was supposed to wear her hair for her first day of school. Guidance immediately began working with the 7 year old in order to help her achieve a level equivalent to that of her peers and the youngest was admitted to the 4K program. Both children were able to begin school on time, August 2017, which was amazing since they were homeless less than two months prior.

Once some of the initial missing documents were acquired then we could help them take the next step and receive Food Stamp Benefits. Gary, a retired veteran volunteer, supplied each of the girls with a bicycle. The girls love that the bus picks them up daily and the school guidance counselors keep us updated on them. Both girls are doing well and the school system has been great about sending photos of their achievements. ECHO was also able to help by sending Secret Santa their way at Christmas.

Sophia was extremely appreciative and the girls were ecstatic and loved every gift. Within 6 months, all the stepping stones had led to success and the family was in a safe, stable environment! Sophia still calls to give updates on the girls and she never fails to say “thank you” for changing our life.

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