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Portage County woman finds a place to call home with help from housing program, mentorship

Published: Oct. 6, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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PORTAGE COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) - Not everyone has a place to call home.

That was the story for Kelly Hernandez. But now she’s writing a new one thanks to a program in Portage County.

For most of us, moving is stressful. But for Hernandez, moving into her new apartment this week means a clean slate.

“It feels good to finally have a place I can call home,” she said.

It’s the first time Hernandez has been able to say those words.

“I thought I would be at that motel for quite a long time,” she said.

Hernandez lived in the Point Motel for two years. She was trapped by the past, and a second chance didn’t come easy, even though she’s honest about her journey.

“I was homeless for numerous years, jail, prison, treatment, so my life has come a long way,” Hernandez explained.

Now she’s writing a new record.

“I finally have the peace and quiet that I’m looking for,” she said.

A program called RentReady helped her get her new apartment. The program is offered through Hunger Poverty Prevention of Portage County. It aims to help people with blemishes like an eviction or bankruptcy in their past find a path to the rental market and out of their homeless or temporary homeless situation. The program backs rent for 3 months of the first year should the person need it. RentReady works with a variety of landlords to make the transition to renting a property seamless.

Graduates of the program are eligible for a sponsor. Hernandez’s sponsor, Torri Bradley, is helping her keep her new apartment.

“Kelly is taking these steps to improve her life for the better and strengthen her life for the better, and it’s really an honor to be a witness to that process and to journey alongside her in that process,” Bradley said. “Walking alongside Kelly in this journey, being a positive adult role model in her life and being there as a support person and helping her connect to resources in the community.”

Bradley is part of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Stevens Point. The church helped Hernandez get the furniture in her apartment and get set up.

“I was very overwhelmed, very overwhelmed,” she said, describing move-in day. “I am so grateful for the people who have helped me through the rough times. Without their support… I think I’d still be running around here not knowing what to do.”

She’s turning her gratitude into a call to action, since it took her just 3 weeks to go through the program and get her certificate of graduation.

“It’s a good program. It was easy to do, if you want to do the work for it,” she said.

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