Sandy Tormey never imagined that life would take him to East Nashville. It's been his family's home for a little over a year, and they are slowly adjusting to life in a new neighborhood.
"We have our own space for the first time, and we aren't living on top of each other anymore," said Tormey. "It's a little overwhelming at first."
The last four years have been a remarkable journey from hotel to hotel for this previously homeless family. Tormey used to sell newspapers for The Contributor on street corners throughout town. During the summer months, he'd work in near 100 degree temperatures. The winter months were equally brutal, but he knew he had to provide for his family. The HERO program - which identifies Metropolitan Nashville Public School students and their families who are homeless - led the Tormey family to the Nashville Family Empowerment Program. The Nashville Family Empowerment Program is a two-generational case management program that addresses the needs of these students and their families. This United Way of Metropolitan Nashville partnership with the Siemer Institute for Family Stability, (and additional community partners like Catholic Charities of Tennessee and Safe Haven Family Shelter) immediately helped this working family find stable housing. (Elizabeth & Sandy Tormey)
"Our case management worker called us and mentioned the possibility of assistance with government housing," Tormey said. "We were a little apprehensive at first, but she assured us that she'd find the right fit. We were one of the first families to utilize this program to address our needs."
The Nashville Family Empowerment Program has served more than 176 working families since it began in July 2014. More than 35 families have already completed the program and 114 have moved into stable housing. The program also offers continuous support for families for up to 24 months to address additional needs. The Nashville Family Empowerment Program simplified the entire process for the Tormeys. It utilizes United Way community partners and Family Resource Centers to locate case managers throughout the city. The program also provides free one-on-one financial counseling through the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center, a United Way partnership with the office of Mayor Megan Barry to help participating families become financially stable.
"Forty-five minutes after we filled out the housing application, our case management worker emailed us and confirmed that our application had been accepted, and we moved in two weeks later," said Tormey. "We were both crying, and our son was in shock because he was going to have his own room for the very first time."
The Nashville Family Empowerment Program partnership also supports a housing specialist. This specialist works to identify city landlords who are willing to accept housing vouchers from their tenants. Program families who are unable to pay first and last month's rent, as well as a security deposit upfront are eligible for rent assistance. Tormey utilized it for the first three months in his new home, but he now has a full-time job and no longer needs it.
"This is the first time we've been on our feet in years," said Tormey. "If you are honest about your situation, they can help you reach a point where you can depend on yourself."
The Tormey Family's story demonstrates how the Nashville Family Empowerment Program is successfully addressing the critical issue of homelessness in the Nashville community. That four year journey from hotel to hotel is over. The Tormeys plan on calling East Nashville home for many more years, thanks to United Way and its partnership on the Nashville Family Empowerment Program.