When Steven Howser first came to the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) around four years ago, he was seeking work development assistance to help him qualify for a seven day bus pass at the shelter. After years of support and involvement with CEF, Howser has not only secured income and housing, but is also giving back.
“I wanted to give back to show people what a good organization they are, and the resources they have to help people in the community," Howser said. "So the people in the community won’t be afraid to donate time and donations to them because they really help a lot of people."
CEF is a student-powered, nonprofit organization focused on enabling and sustaining transitions out of homelessness and poverty. CEF was founded in 2009 to provide relationship-based support, workforce development, financial education and matched savings accounts to individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness in Orange and Durham Counties.
Co-Director of CEF, Maggie West, along with numerous other CEF advocates — including Hannah Factor and Sarah Arney — have worked with Howser for almost four years now to help him accomplish his goals.
West said in an email they have been able to work with him on a wide range of goals as well as connect him with critical services while he was experiencing homelessness.
Howser said receiving his Housing Choice Voucher from Orange County with the help of CEF was extremely transformative for him.
“From that point it’s like my life has taken a 180 degree turn with their help and some other people outside of there’s help,” Howser said.
After Howser received his Housing Choice Voucher about a year ago, CEF worked with him on all aspects of the move; including obtaining funds for his security deposit, finding a landlord and furniture for his housing and throwing a housewarming party.
“About 30 people came to his housewarming party that evening, and he greeted each of them at the door with such enthusiasm and delight and surprise and joy. It makes me cry just thinking about it," West said.