By: Elois Freeman
“Never expect anyone to do for you,” Trenace’s grandmother would tell her. “Get a college education and a good job with benefits. Work hard, buy a house and raise your family. Live well and retire with a good pension.”
Trenace, a resident of Homewood,Illinois, felt like following her grandmother’s advice would ensure that she would be guaranteed the American dream. “Everyone in the family followed Grandma, the matriarch’s, advice and had a good work ethic,” she said.
Trenace followed all of her grandmother’s advice. She went to college and studied hospitality because she believed that her God-given gift was tied to serving people. Later, she earned a Master’s degree in Human Services Administration. She got a job helping to develop healthcare policy for the state of Illinois, and then as the public health supervisor in a Chicago hospital. But all of her experience and education didn’t help her when the economy tanked in 2008.
Trenace was laid off and was unable to find work for months. This began the cycle of finding a job of modest wage with no benefits, getting laid off without cause, and being unemployed for months while she searched for another job. In an attempt to end this cycle, Trenace and her husband started their own small business, a daycare center. But in the fledgling economy, their business was unsuccessful.
The cycle was finally broken in 2010, when she began work as a Home Visitor—someone who supports female high school students who are pregnant or have had babies to ensure that they graduate from high school. The salary is modest and the job has no benefits, but the steady income enabled her to support her daughter in completing her college education.
She loves the work she does with her company and is seeking a full-time position with benefits. After surviving bankruptcy and selling her home for less than it was worth, she feels like this is the next necessary step to insure her security.
On the weekend, Trenace volunteers as a caregiver with the organization Age Options. “I have come full circle,” she stated. “I helped to create the Illinois healthcare policies that guide services to senior citizens. Those policies are now the guidelines that I follow in my caregiving work.”
As a country, we have to figure out how to again make good on the promise of the American dream for Trenace and others who help our community through service to our youth and senior citizens. Affordable, accessible healthcare for all will ease the fear caused to uninsured workers of going into insurmountable debt if there is ever sickness or injury to themselves or a family member.