published Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Stabilizing lives a key goal for Neediest Cases Fund

  • photo
    Seen with her 3-year-old son, Quanzell Watson, Deanna Watson needed nonslip shoes and black pants to apply a job working for a restaurant. She recently moved into the Villages at Alton Park with Quanzell and her other three boys, Tyrique, 10, Antavious, 6, and Zion, 2. The Neediest Cases Fund was able to help her.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Standing in the kitchen of her new home in Alton Park, Deanna Watson is still in the process of moving.

She is waiting for her furniture to arrive and fill the mostly empty rooms, making the house seem more like home for her and her boys.

The mother of four moved to Chattanooga six years ago from Columbia, S.C., to care for an ailing aunt. Not wanting to uproot her kids and move again, she opted to keep her family in Chattanooga.

Even after being in the city for years, she didn't know where to turn for help.

After calling 211 for assistance, Watson was asked if she would like any information about job help through Building Stable Lives, a program through the United Way of Greater Chattanooga and Partnership for Families, Children and Adults that provides services, including job hunting, aimed at long-term stability.

Watson had been looking for a job on her own with little luck and needed additional help with housing and child care.

"I was a hot mess," she said about her first meeting with her case manager. "When you have so many problems, sometimes it's hard to put them in a sensible order."

She eventually found a job working in a restaurant, but needed new clothes: black pants and nonslip shoes. Watson had been looking for work-appropriate attire since she started with Building Stable Lives in October, but was still missing basic black pants, said Jessi Scarborough, life coach and Watson's case manager.

When Scarborough found out that Watson needed clothes to immediately start work at a restaurant, she turned to the Times Free Press Neediest Cases fund, using almost $70 to get the items for Watson.

But when her 3-year-old, Quinzell, returned home from her child care provider with a gash on his head, she left her job to care for her kids.

"It's the life of a single mom," she said.

Her two oldest, Tyrique, 10, and Antavious, 6, attend elementary school, but Quinzell and her youngest, Zion, 2, need day care.

Though Watson was unable to work more than a few days at her job before her childcare options fell through, the clothes are an investment in her future, Scarborough said.

"With Neediest Cases, we often use it for utilities, which is needed," she said. "If there's something I can do that will last more than a month, I'm going to reach for it."

Watson is still following up on job leads and working to find child care so she can get back to work. Her new location seems like a better fit for her family.

The house is much larger than her previous one across town, with separate bedrooms for her kids and two bathrooms -- an exciting upgrade.

Her two older children can walk to their elementary school and the Bethlehem Center, which holds afterschool programs for kids and the office of a life coach with Building Stable Lives. Since working with Scarborough, Watson said she feels like she has someone to turn to with any issue.

"Just to have a good soundboard, a good shoulder to cry on -- that's worth a million," Watson said.

Having completed everything that Scarborough asked of her since October, Watson is in a good position with a new home and lots of job prospects, Scarborough said.

"She's definitely extremely motivated to take care of her boys," she said. "I'm glad to see where she's at right now."

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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