Shannon's Story of working with an ERI Community Benefits Specialist. Her advice is "Don't give up!"

Don’t Give Up, Because You’re Worth It!

In Benefits Application Stories, Featured, News, Stories by Priscilla Matthews

Shannon was homeless for three years. That began to change when, in her words, “I woke up one day and thought – no one is going to change things for me.”

She’s now a part-time student at Madison College and the single-parent of a 2-year-old child with a disability. She wants to be a nurse to premature babies in neonatal intensive care after she completes her 3-year nursing program. “I wanted to be a nurse since I was 13. I didn’t think I had the drive or was smart enough. Now I think I do,” she said.

Finding the Right Supports

Shannon contacted ERI in 2014 when she was homeless and in a bad situation. Keeping a job was challenging because of her disability. Jolin Mitchel, a Community Benefits Specialist at ERI, supported her to start an application for Social Security benefits and went with her to the Social Security office to talk about the application. Shannon returned to working full time so she withdrew her application.

When Shannon was unable to continue working because of her disability she contacted Jolin again. He helped her complete the paperwork to re-apply for Social Security benefits and to understand what she needed to do to complete the application process. When her application was denied she decided to appeal. Jolin assisted her in filing a successful appeal. She now receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) based on her past work history.

Room to Heal and Grow

Shannon has a sweet smile and infectious laugh. Her eyes light up when she talks about her son and her hopes of becoming a nurse when she’s done with school. She says, “I had a rough childhood. Being accepted for Social Security has given me time to heal from those things and find out who I am as a person. It’s a building block.”

She continues to receive support from Jolin. He’s provided documentation several times when she was applying for apartments, talked with her about how Social Security’s Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) work incentive could benefit her as a student, and supported her in advocating for herself when working with state agencies. Jolin says, “I’ve really appreciated working with Shannon and seeing her grow over the past years. She’s persistent in reaching her goals and really cares about helping others.

Giving Back to Her Community

A year ago, when her son was 1-year old, Shannon raised $1700 for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, WI. She said, “I wanted to help and give back to the people who helped me. In the past my biggest challenge was following through with things. Now I’m resourceful. I got out of homelessness and am becoming self-reliant. I hold myself accountable for what I need.”

Shannon hopes her story encourages others to reach out for help when they need it. Her advice to others? Don’t give up, because you’re worth it.”