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Caring for the Crisis

St. Vincent de Paul and APS are partnering to provide utility bill assistance

Facing the Heat: One Woman's Struggle to Pay Utilities

When life brings unexpected hardships, everyday routines and needs can quickly become struggles. For Teresa Z, her life was uprooted this summer when her company downsized and she lost her job.  Immediately Teresa set out to find a new workplace, filling out applications for every open position she could find. She was determined; she wouldn’t let this unexpected loss set her back—until it did.

Summers in Arizona tend to be very stressful for hard working families and individuals who are already living paycheck to paycheck. The triple-digit temperatures cause the cost of utility bills to rise, often creating an impossible choice for families who are struggling to make ends meet. 

Like most rental properties, Teresa’s home has a rental policy that requires all residents to keep their utilities paid in full, otherwise they will be evicted. With no way to pay her electricity bill and no current leads on a job, Teresa had a difficult choice to make. 

“I was crying all the time because I didn’t know what to do,” Teresa said. “I said, “Oh my God, what am I going to do if I don’t get any help?” I’m going to live in my house with no electricity and they’re going to evict me!”

Fearing the threat of eviction, Teresa stopped using her air-conditioning in the middle of July.

“I wouldn’t use my AC, because I said, “How am I going to pay it [the electricity bill] if I keep using my AC?” she said.

Teresa would spend the entire day and night inside her home without running her air-conditioning.

“It was so hot in here,” Teresa explained. “I go, “But I’ve got to sacrifice. I’ve got to do this, because if my bill gets any higher what am I going to do? I’m going to be on the streets and I didn’t want that.””

Teresa turned her to her family and her neighbors who all rallied together to raise funds to assist her with her utility bill, but it wasn’t enough to pay the full bill. 

Teresa decided she needed to seek help elsewhere and that’s when she found St. Vincent de Paul’s Resource Center, and with it, the news that we could pay Teresa’s entire utility bill.

“It meant so much! I told him [the intake volunteer], “Thank you!” and he said, “No. Don’t thank me, thank Him up there, but you can thank me too because He wants me to be a volunteer so that I can help you,” Teresa said, smiling.

Bestowing both dignity and security, St. Vincent de Paul’s Resource Center prevents homelessness by providing direct assistance to our needy neighbors — to avoid utility shut-off first, and especially eviction, which can cripple a family for a long time. When possible, we co-fund with other agencies and target our one-time family assistance to those who have the potential to regain self-sufficiency in a relatively short amount of time. 

For Teresa, it took just $150 to prevent her from experiencing homelessness.

“I really did need the help,” she said. “Oh, I cried when he told me, “It’s paid in full.” I really cried and said, “Thank you so much!”

At St. Vincent de Paul we try to accommodate as many utility assistance requests as possible. Recognizing the need, our community partner APS has given us special funding for individuals and families during a time of crisis. The APS Crisis Bill Assistance program will allow us to help more people like Teresa who need a helping hand up during their time of need.

Reflecting on her journey, Teresa wants others to know that there is help out there.

“We are not alone. There is somebody out here that really cares about people that really need help, and are willing to provide their time to help others who are really in need of help. And that was me.”

If you or someone you know needs help paying for an APS bill, click here.

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