As a part-time school employee – working as a crossing guard and lunchroom monitor – Susette doesn’t receive benefits or even an income when schools are closed due to holiday breaks or weather conditions.
This winter was particularly hard for lost days and income, says the 42-year-old Harper Woods mother supporting three children and a grandchild.
As tough as it gets, Susette has been grateful for the occasional contacts she’s had with Michigan 2-1-1 contact center specialists. Over several months, they’ve helped her locate community resources for needs big and small.
When her stove stopped working around Christmas, a 2-1-1 specialist put her in touch with the St. Vincent de Paul Society charity, who in turn suggested a back-up affiliated charity if a stove wasn’t in their inventory.
Lost work during the snow and ice storms that closed schools this winter meant she couldn’t cover her heating bill at home. Specialists with the information and referral service put her in touch with the Michigan Department for Social Services as well as a nonprofit in the Oakland County that helps with such shortfalls.
Lately, she’s been planning to find a better, full-time job now that her children are getting older. A 2-1-1 operator told her recently about the work of the local Urban League and Michigan Works! office in her area. Both are there to help people with employment searches.
For Susette, being able to call 2-1-1 for nonjudgmental, friendly help has been a bright spot in her life.
“The people I talk to are generally nice and they really want to help. That’s a blessing to me or to anybody I would say,” she said.
“No matter when you call everybody is very polite. They want to make sure they give you as much information as you like. That’s very nice, especially when you’re at your wit’s end and don’t know who to turn to.”
Besides taking care of her children, Susette has been attending classes at Wayne County Community College for an associate’s degree in business administration. She knows education is a path for improving her job prospects and she wants to use her degree to find work as a customer service consultant. Before raising a family, Susette worked for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infant Children (WIC) as a lactation consultant for nursing mothers.
“We do live on a tight, tight budget,” she said. “We just do the necessities. Go to work. Go to school. There’s very little wiggle room.”
Susette preferred to be identified by only her first name for privacy reasons.