Member Spotlight: Kelly and Johanna

“I am so grateful that Johanna and I have a safe and affordable place to live!” – Kelly, Step Up Member

Kelly is a US Airforce veteran, a carpenter, and a father—but one of his favorite hats to wear is Grandpa. Kelly lives with and supports his granddaughter, Johanna – a spunky four-year-old who loves to sing and dance and has Kelly wrapped around her finger. Johanna lights up the room when she reunites with Kelly after he returns from a long day at work. At Hero’s Landing – Step’s Up Permanent Supportive Housing Development exclusively for veterans – Kelly and Johanna have recreated a safe home together, as Kelly works to repair the damage from more than two years of experiencing homelessness. In his white jumpsuit, Kelly looks ready to fix anything set in front of him. 

The events that lead to housing insecurity may be slow and gradual or unforeseeable and abrupt. For Kelly, a disciplined carpenter and timely tenant, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic turned his family’s life upside down. After the sudden boom in lumber prices, the construction industry paused, along with the rest of the world, and the company Kelly worked for was forced to close their doors. Suddenly, Kelly found himself out of work and with few options. Yet there was no pausing the bills that continued to pile up.  

To make matters worse, Kelly and his family were given a 60-day no-fault eviction notice, despite never missing a rent payment. They were forced to leave the only home Johanna had ever known, and without a steady income, finding a new place to live was nearly impossible. Kelly drew on his savings to pay for motels, just so his family could have a roof over their heads and a door that locked at night. As the pandemic wore on, job opportunities remained scarce. Kelly watched his bank accounts dwindle and his credit card debt balloon. With each new charge, Kelly was falling deeper and deeper into housing insecurity. Affording the security deposit needed for a new home, let alone first- and last month’s rent, seemed increasingly out of reach. 

Eventually, the savings were gone, and the credit cards were maxed. For more days than Kelly cares to count, he, Johanna, and their two dogs found themselves living out of their tiny, two-door car.  

But Kelly is resourceful, and he refused to let Johanna grow up without a stable home. He knew that to get back on his feet, he would need some outside help. Kelly reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs and was then connected to Step Up – just in time.  

“We were down to our last penny when we got the call,” said Kelly. ‘Step Up saved us.”   

In December of 2022, just before the holidays, Kelly and Johanna moved into their new home at Hero’s Landing. As a member of Step Up, Kelly was provided with the tools and support he needed to get his life back on track. With a stable home and a consistent address, Kelly was able to look for work more effectively, and Johanna found a brand-new community to delight with her loveable antics.  

“Johanna provides so much happiness to our residents who lost some of their family support when they experienced homelessness,” said Angelica Zamora, a Service Care Coordinator at Hero’s Landing. “Everyone loves her. She is a little sparkle of sunshine.” 

Today, Kelly is a full-time employee at a local theme park. Working at the mill, Kelly quite literally lays the framework for the magic that builds one of the happiest places on earth. He and Johanna also participate in weekly activities at Hero’s Landing – even celebrating Johanna’s recent birthday with the entire community. 

“I am so grateful that Johanna and I have a safe and affordable place to live,” said Kelly. “We are so lucky to have an organization like Step Up.” 

In such an unpredictable world, homelessness can strike at any time. Step Up advocates for those who have had to survive without housing and offers an opportunity for individuals and families to rebuild their lives after experiencing housing insecurity.  

You can help provide life-changing opportunities to more people like Kelly. Click here to make a gift today!   

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