For 22-year-old Elizabeth Shoemaker, it all happened so fast.
“So, in August of 2022, I lived with my family. We lived in the downtown area for about eight years,” she explains. “The landlord and his wife were getting divorced, and they decided to sell the house we were living in — a duplex. And it was sprung on us at the last minute.”
With three little brothers ready to go back to school, Elizabeth, who goes by Lizzie, knew her mother was in a bad situation.
“I remember I came home from the library one day, and mom’s like, we need to have a conversation,” she said. “And she’s just like, I have to worry about getting a place so the boys can start school.”
The goal was to get something for all of them, but Lizzie knew her brothers had to be the top priority.
“And there was nothing wrong with that, you know because it was right before school started. And I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Taking Control of the Situation
Already attending the Emerge program at the Washington County Free Library, a supportive community helping new adults, she turned to a librarian, Stephanie Wiant, and also the Emerge Coordinator for help.
“It’s people in my age group — 18 to 25 — and it’s run by one of the ladies who works there. She’s a very nice person. I’m always very open with her. And I talked about it, and she suggested I go to Goodwill and then CAC (Community Action Council). So, I went to Goodwill first because I heard good things about them.”
“So, I went down there, and I talked to Tonia Nipper, one of HGI’s Housing Navigators, and she told me about the program, and then thankfully, they had the youth shelter, and Jane was able to get me a job here.”
Lizzie pauses before continuing, “I’m about to cry.”
“I remember it was that day I went to talk to her about housing, and she’s like, do you have a job?” Lizzie did not, so Tonia referred her to Jane Hawkins, an HGI Vocational Case Manager. “And I talked to Jane, and then, literally, the Thursday of that week, I started out here.”
In the Business Services North Warehouse, Lizzie started as a temporary employee. Within a short time, she went to full-time. At the same time, she connected with Holly Masur, a Youth Outreach Case Manager, about housing in the youth shelter.
“I’m very grateful for that. Because at the time, I was still at home, but I took it and stayed there for the rest of August, all of September, and October. And then, on Nov. 1 of this year, I got my first apartment,” she said.
She splits the apartment with a co-worker who became her best friend.
“Michael. He works in my department…. He’s been there for me every step of the way,” she explains. “When I was moving everything over to the shelter, he helped me. At the time, I had to walk from Elm Street all the way to Broadway. It’s not that far of a walk, but when you have a lot of stuff… he made multiple trips. I’m just so grateful.
Now, she loves what she is doing. And she can stay in touch with her family.
“They got an apartment right off Dual Highway. And where I live, we’re not even that far from each other. They’re dropping me a dining room table off sometime this weekend,” she said.
“I’m going to finish decorating my apartment. That’s the main goal — to get more settled in. Just thrive a little bit. Still work really hard. Adopt the cat, maybe. I want a pet. I want a cat or a goldfish,” she said. “I have one year towards my bachelor’s degree, but I just want to take it slow. I might go back to school. I want to do more volunteer work. I’d be more involved in Emerge. That program (Emerge) starts in January; I’m one of the first to start going. I definitely want to help Stephanie with that.”
And long term?
“I don’t know. Maybe a few years down the road, I will find something different. My initial dream goal was, despite going to school for criminal justice, I’m a writer. And I would love to have a book of poetry published. That’s a pipe dream for now. I don’t know if there might be another position, but I really like it here. And I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
Lizzie acknowledges the uniqueness of her situation and urges those who need it to avoid the stigma of asking for help.
“Even Tonia said your situation’s different, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to help you,” she explains. “Because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where else to go. You know, I’ve heard good things about Goodwill, but… it’s awkward. Like, why am I doing this? Are people going to think less of me for doing this?”
“But in my opinion, if you don’t ask for help. To me, that’s the dumb thing,” she added. “If it weren’t for Goodwill, I wouldn’t have a job; I wouldn’t have my first apartment. It just wouldn’t have happened.