Telling Our Stories
EVA | Information & Referral
When Eva first came to Disability Network for Information & Referral services she was looking for housing because she felt unsafe where she was living. She felt the apartment management was taking advantage of her by charging her for services she did not need or request. Disability Network Information & Referral staff connected Eva to services available through Fair Housing and Legal Aid to address these issues and provided her with a space to call these agencies and discuss her case with them in private.
Because she was new to the community, our staff encouraged Eva to participate in our Women’s Support Group. Since becoming involved with the peer support group she has grown personally from a tearful, stressed and very quiet woman to someone who confidently participates in group meetings.
Since first coming to Disability Network three years ago, Eva has located new housing for herself and has become a strong self-advocate. Eva currently volunteers with the Recovery Institute and is a Board Member there. Eva was the recipient of Disability Network’s 2016 Bob Davis Independent Living award.
SHARON | Peer Support
Sharon has been attending peer support groups at Disability Network for more than twenty years. She enjoys the camaraderie, as well as the opportunity to learn new things, meet people, and attend local outings. Sharon finds the support groups offer a safe and comfortable environment for people to share their experiences. When she was having a difficult time with depression, the support groups gave her a reason to get out of bed and an opportunity to focus on something positive in her life.
Sharon has been an active member of the Brain Injury Survivors Group for many years and joined in celebrating the group’s thirtieth anniversary this year.
JOHNSON | Independent Living
Johnson is a 26 year old who graduated from our Advocacy Academy program and recently graduated from Western Michigan University with a Fine Arts degree. Johnson has Cerebral Palsy and drives a large power cart for mobility around the community. Unsure of what his plans would be following graduation, Johnson sublet an apartment for 6 months and was in need of a temporary ramp during this time.
Disability Network Southwest Michigan helped Johnson acquire a temporary ramp which allowed him to live in an apartment with a group of other students while he figured out his next steps after graduation.
MARJORIE | Nursing Facility Transition
Marjorie, age 70, was living in a nursing facility after being hospitalized for an infection. Prior to being hospitalized she wasn’t getting the care she needed or deserved in her home and her finances were being mismanaged, resulting in a foreclosure and loss of her home. After several months in the nursing facility, Marjorie realized that living in a nursing facility was not for her and she wanted to return to community-based living but she was concerned there were too many barriers.
The Nursing Facility Transition staff at Disability Network began working with Marjorie to identify housing options and fill out the appropriate paperwork. Disability Network staff connected Marjorie to agencies in the community that could help her address her financial barriers and establish a representative payee so that she could feel secure that her income would be safe and available for her to use to pay her rent and living expenses. Once housing was secured, Disability Network staff provided furniture, household goods and groceries to get Marjorie settled in her new home.
Marjorie continues to live independently where she “is the boss” and in charge of her own life.
JOB CLUB | Youth in Transition
During the summer we partnered with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) to facilitate a Job Club for a group of their customers, ages 17-26. Our staff completes comprehensive assessments with each of the participants. These assessments are done in the participant’s home, with or without their parents, and identify barriers to independent living.
Participants then participate in the 10 session Job Club where the focus of each session is on soft skills for employment. The sessions are led by a Disability Network Independent Living Specialist and provide participants with information on problem solving, decision making, communication, attitude, and budgeting. All activities are focused on providing participants with the skills they need to be successful in college, at home or at work.
After Job Club, participants can began the DNR project (an internship program through MRS,) go to college, or find employment.
JILL | Advocacy & Education
Disability Network Southwest Michigan partnered with the City of St. Joseph to host Calling all Voices: Voting access for everyone! At this event, participants could learn about, and try, the AutoMARK accessible voting machine.
One of the participants, Jill, was a woman with low vision who was concerned that the change in her vision would mean that she would no longer be able to vote independently. With coaching from the City Clerk, she used the headphones and keypad to fill out a practice ballot using the AutoMARK.
As Jill was leaving, she thanked Disability Network and City of St. Joseph staff for providing the opportunity to learn how to vote independently for as long as she chooses
Disability Network Southwest Michigan is affiliated with The United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, the St. Joseph County United Way, and the Van Buren County United Way.