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October 30, 2020 | 5,726 total views

Rafael, an immigrant from the Philippines first joined the North Valley Caring Services (NVCS) Safe Parking program in July 2019. Like many Filipino immigrants, he traveled to the United States in search of a better life in 1995.

Rafael was a hardworking and dedicated individual for most of his life. It was only in January of 2019 that he was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition leading him to be admitted and discharged from the hospital for months. It was at this time when his employer fired him and his landlord evicted him, rendering him homeless. Even while living in his car and depending on NVCS for meals and showers, Rafael still was determined to get a job and resolve his housing crisis.

8 months into Rafael’s enrollment in the Safe Parking program, the COVID-19 crisis hit. Given his underlying medical conditions and age, NVCS referred Rafael to Project RoomKey where he started staying in April. Realizing that it may be too dangerous for him to stay in the U.S., Rafael decided that it was time to go back to the Philippines, where his family could take care of him.

Determined to help Rafael return home safely, Laura Rathbone, director of the NVCS Safe Parking site, reached out to LAHSA's Problem-Solving Specialist, Ricardo Rivera, to propose the reunification of Rafael with his family. As long as Rafael could secure safe housing, his case home would be approved. Laura even went the extra step of working with Hope of the Valley to raise money for Rafael to get a passport.

Just when the Problem-Solving team was about to order Rafael’s ticket through Problem-Solving Assistance Funds (PSAF), they ran into a snag. Rafael had lost his passport. To order a plane ticket, you needed to have a passport number. Laura figured that there could still be a way for Rafael to board a plane with a consulate letter, but even then, you still needed a way to get a ticket. Progress was halted once again.

Still, determined to help Rafael return home, Laura continued to problem-solve and found a solution. Apparently, if you order a plane ticket through a travel agency, you do not need to have a passport number. The gears started turning once more. Upon arriving in the Philippines Rafael would be required to self-quarantine for 3 days, requiring him to stay at a motel due to COVID, and would have to figure out how to ship some of his belongings. To ensure all things were in order, Ricardo found a way to pay and book a motel and was able to add extra luggage to his flight, securing that no possessions were left behind.

With everything in place, Rafael boarded his flight in August and was finally able to see his family once more. It was a bittersweet reunion, with Rafael not fulfilling his dreams of succeeding in America—but now he was not just housed but reunited with his loving family.


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Rafael Piano waiting to check-in at LAX - image courtesy of Laura Rathbone


“It was such a touching experience to go with Rafael to the airport and help him check-in. I am grateful that I got to help someone start the next chapter of their life," said the Safe Parking Director.



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Rafael Piano assisted in a wheelchair - image courtesy of Laura Rathbone

Laura and her dedicated staff work every day to assist individuals with creating a plan to move from their vehicle and into housing. Luckily, for Rafael, housing was a plane ticket away.

North Valley Caring Services is a nonprofit organization serving the residents in the Northeast San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Since their humble beginnings as a soup kitchen more than three decades ago, they've continued to adapt services to the changing needs of the community. Today, NVCS is a model center for community empowerment, offering a wide array of programs to enable residents to lift themselves out of poverty, while also encouraging them to build a vision for their community's future.

Housing is possible

Imagine how many more reunifications are possible through Problem-Solving.

COVID Relief funds is still are available for Problem-Solving interventions, through December 20, 2020. With this relief funding, COVID-vulnerable households, like Rafael's, may be assisted with up to two full months of move-in assistance to resolve their homelessness. If you haven't already done so, sign up and complete the training on your own time, in the privacy of your own home, to take advantage of this emergency resource.

The Problem-Solving training is a prerequisite to obtaining access to LAHSA's centralized Problem-Solving Assistance Funds.


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