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Housing First: What a Stable Foundation Can Do

Meet Jon, Eli, & Dylan.

Currently residing in a quality, affordable NeighborWorks’ apartment, brothers, Eli and Jon and their roommate, Dylan, tell their story from homelessness and worry to stability and growth. They are a true testament to what it means to put housing first and the magic that happens when non-profit organizations work together to build up our neighbors and provide opportunities our community needs.

Tell me a little about yourselves.

Jon: Growing up, we were given a lot of responsibilities at a very young age. We did a lot of caretaking for our mother and grandmother, which took our focus off school. In 2020, a teacher referred me to Alliance for Youth (AFY) where they offered me a job and shortly after, helped me find the NeighborWorks’ apartment with Eli & Dylan.

Eli: Like Jon said, we had to grow up fast because of the responsibilities we had during childhood. I was working full time at a local senior living facility when we all moved in together. However, I ended up jobless shortly after. I was also offered a job at AFY where they pushed me to finish high school, get my license, and change my life for the better. I’ve learned how to process the relationships we had growing up and the generational trauma we endured. Now, we help so many kids at AFY and the Center is helping me pursue college.

Dylan: I’ve been in Great Falls for 10 years now and I’ve lived in three different places because of strained parental relationships. I experienced a short stint of homelessness just before I was connected with Alliance for Youth who helped me find a more stable housing situation. We moved into the NeighborWorks apartment just before the pandemic and we feel so grateful to have a quality, affordable home.

How has having a stable home impacted you & helped you grow in other areas of your lives?

Jon: When you’re homeless, you’re in survival mode. But with having a stable roof over our heads, we aren’t as stressed out and we’re happier overall. I used to stress and overthink everything, and now I enjoy my life and want to continue improving it.

Eli: It has motivated me! We have a home now! Having a nice place to call home makes you want to be better. I’ve been slowly bettering myself and getting my life together. I now have a good income and live a normal, peaceful life. Growing up, we were always worrying, but we don’t stress anymore or worry about stability because we’re creating that for ourselves.

Dylan: The first time you have your own place, it feels like you have control over your own life. I grew up in a very constricted home, but now my life is my own and I get to choose my own future. I am happy now and have the freedom I’ve always wanted.

Now that you have a stable foundation, tell me how you envision your lives moving forward.

Jon: We used to worry so much about our futures and finding housing. Now that we’re in a stable home, we don’t have to worry about that so I’m comfortable now with enjoying life. We are so focused on the now because for the first time in my and Eli’s life, we don’t have to worry about the future.

Eli: I want to get a degree in psychology here in Great Falls so I don’t have to worry about housing. I feel satisfied with my life because I have achieved so much within the last year. I envision living more in the present and enjoying life more.

Dylan: I now have the time and freedom to think about my whole life plan. I have a steady income and I’m working and supporting myself and I’m currently spending a lot of time thinking about my next step. I’m working on enjoying how far I’ve come and figuring out which path I want to take in life.

We’ve been helped by AFY, Opportunities, Inc., and NeighborWorks Great Falls and we are so thankful. They helped us get to where we are now and are slowly letting go of the reigns so we can take it from here. They gave us the push we needed to get here, and we can’t say thank you enough.


Learn more about Alliance for Youth. Learn more about Opportunities, Inc.

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