Once living a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, the Cisco family found themselves without a paycheck, a car and a home. Now, The Salvation Army is helping them get back on their feet.
The Cisco family: Lisa and Shannon and their children, Savannah, 3, and Caleb, 1.
Lisa Cisco understands the saying that many Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless.
Along with her husband, Shannon, and two young children, she has experienced the situation firsthand.
Until a few years ago, Lisa says, the Ciscos were like any other middle-class family in America.
“We lived a regular, everyday life,” she says.
Lisa spent her time at home taking care of Savannah, 3, while Shannon worked at an industrial vehicle company. The couple also has two grown children who live out of state.
“We were middle-class citizens with no problems,” she says. “We had a checking account, savings account and a car to drive. We took vacations. We were very comfortable. The bills were paid. We just lived a normal life.”
In summer 2009, while Lisa was pregnant with Caleb, now 1, Shannon was laid off from his job. That’s when everything changed. He lost his regular paycheck, the house was foreclosed on and the family was without a place to live.
“It doesn’t take you long to go through your savings," Lisa says.
The Ciscos thought about asking family members for help, but they didn’t want to intrude. Instead, they headed to The Salvation Army Center of Hope, a place Lisa had heard of but knew very little about. The Salvation Army offers shelter, food, health care and a variety of programs for citizens in need.
Once at the facility, the family of four lived within the general population for two weeks, an experience Shannon calls difficult for many reasons.
“Going from waking up to making coffee in your home to somebody waking you up demanding, ‘We need your sheets. We need your blankets’ was hard,” he says. “Going from your own home to that, and all those strange people and not knowing anybody.”
During the day, the family left the shelter, heading to a local park so the children could play on the splash pad. They would return at night for dinner and to fall asleep among the other men, women and families.
When the Ciscos learned that The Salvation Army offers free transitional apartments, they knew they needed to do whatever was necessary to be eligible for one. They took the necessary life skills classes, developed the appropriate case management plan and were persistent with their case manager, who knew they were the ideal family for the temporary housing.
They now live in a two-bedroom apartment within The Salvation Army grounds as they work to get back on their feet.
The Ciscos are not alone. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2010, the Center of Hope housed 364 total guests (whom The Salvation Army eventually helped transition into permanent housing), including 95 single women, 245 single men and 24 families, says Arletta Robinson, Center of Hope executive director.
Now, Lisa is pursuing her GED in hopes of ultimately becoming an occupational therapist. While Lisa is in school, the children attend Tulsa’s Educare II child development center.
Shannon, meanwhile, works as a welder during the day and attends Tulsa Welding School at night to learn more advanced skills. He’s often working and going to school from 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m. If he’s able to pick up an extra shift at work, he’ll wake up at 3 a.m.
All the work and sacrifice are paying off, though, as Shannon is scheduled to graduate from Tulsa Welding School in January 2011.
After that, the family plans to buy an RV to travel where Shannon's work sends them. He hopes to secure a new job soon through Tulsa Welding School’s job placement service.
As difficult as the experience has been, the Ciscos say they have learned many lessons and are grateful for everything The Salvation Army has done for them. The family cried when they arrived at The Salvation Army, Lisa says, and she anticipates they will cry when they leave.
“They’ve helped us so much,” she says. “It’s going to be a bittersweet situation.”