Ernise is a participant in our Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program in partnership with Cambridge Housing Authority. We invited her to share about her experience in the program at our 7th Annual Breakfast Benefit on May 4th, 2015. Watch her speech below and scroll down further to read the full text of her remarks.

Good morning.

My name is Ernise Destin, and I currently live in Cambridge. I am so happy to be here and to be able to tell you how the Compass program has made a huge impact in my life.

I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and came here when I was 10 years old.

After graduating high school, I enrolled at Salem State in the nursing program. I was close to graduating when I had to leave school because it became too expensive. I didn’t have the financial support I needed, so I had to leave and couldn’t go back.

A little over two years ago, I found myself at home with four children, no job, and barely enough income to survive on. I had a Section 8 voucher from Cambridge Housing Authority, which I appreciate. But I was by myself, and I saw the bills piling up. I was basically ready to give up.

Until, one day I received a postcard in the mail about the Compass program.

The postcard said that I could gain financial stability. I did not believe such a thing would be possible without spending more money that I didn’t have.

When I first started in the Compass program, I had a conversation with my financial coach and expressed my fear that I would never get employment.

I told my coach that I would love to have a job where I didn’t have to depend on the system. My coach told me that it would take some time, and encouraged me not to give up and to keep looking. After four months of searching, it happened. I was hired to work overnights at a domestic violence shelter.

Once I was able to find a job, I began to work on my other financial goals. One of my goals is to eventually own my own home for my family. I have a dream of stepping onto my own porch, and having a backyard, doing gardening, so that even if you live in the city it’s like you live in the country because you have your tomatoes, your greens right there to cook. I want to have that independence, and for my kids to have their own space. My other goals are to save money toward my children’s college funds, and to go back to school for myself.

The Compass program has given me the skills to be able to reach my goals. I know it is not easy but they are steps I am willing to take. Now that I have set my goals, it makes it easier to take the steps to get there because I know they will pay off. I am motivated and disciplined. At the Compass program, I am comfortable enough to speak about what’s been going on in my life, and how I really want to be better for my family. My children are what keeps me motivated. I am all my kids have. I talk to my kids about my story all the time. I tell my kids about my overnight job, and tell them to finish their education so they will have more opportunity and more choice.

I believe more in myself right now because of  the Compass program. It has helped me build a ladder to stabilize my life.

After two years in the program, I have been able to pay off most of my debt, keep track of my spending, and increase my credit score. I plan to continue my education and earn a bachelor’s degree for myself. I have since moved on from my job at the shelter, and now work as a Money Management Specialist to help families manage their money and pay their bills on time so that they don’t lose their housing.

There comes a time in life that you decide you really have to grow. The Section 8 voucher has been there to help me, but there comes a time when you’re ready to pass it on to another family and let them get the same benefit that you got from it.

I know one day that my children will benefit from my hard work. I had to make a lot of changes to be where I am today. I have come a long way in the Compass program. My journey to get to my goals is still a process, but I know I will reach it.


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