The small, one-bedroom apartment may not be much, but it’s home and the beginning of a new life for Diann Wears and her dog, Cow.
The pair moved into an East Toledo home Friday after spending more than two months living on the streets downtown. The community quickly rallied to support Diann and Cow after they were featured in The Blade on Sunday and Monday.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Diann said. “My head is spinning.”
The Blade and Michelle Gorsuch, a financial coach working with Diann, received hundreds of messages, the vast majority offering help for the woman and her dog. In just three days, an online fund-raiser amassed more than $6,000. Multiple people came forward to offer housing. Others agreed to pay for a complete veterinary checkup for Cow or services for Diann, and still more donated tangible goods like dog food and personal items.
DIANN AND COW’S STORY
An emotional Diann Wears pauses for a moment as she and her dog, Cow, speak with her new landlord, Theresa Kim, who offered them the place to stay with low rent and no deposit.
“It’s been amazing,” Ms. Gorsuch said. “If we could do this for every person out here on the streets, that would be incredible.”
Diann is now trying to pay it forward by directing some donations elsewhere, including the Toledo-based 1Matters nonprofit that focuses on homeless individuals.
Her situation has triggered other efforts, too.
Ken Leslie, a leading advocate for the homeless and founder of 1Matters, said a volunteer and real-estate agent was prompted by Diann’s story to offer connections to affordable housing, leading the organization to begin contacting other area agents seeking help for homeless individuals.
“That’s one of the cool things to come out of this story,” Mr. Leslie said.
He said Glass City residents should be proud of the positive and giving reaction to Diann and Cow’s situation.
“This just reaffirms that we have this incredibly, powerfully compassionate community,” he said. “Sometimes we forget that.”
Mr. Leslie said the current system in place to help the homeless lacks a sense of urgency, and affordable housing is always an issue.
“In this case, it’s a great example of how the private community can make this housing available,” he said. “The solution to homelessness here and all over America is accessibility to affordable housing.”
Diann struggled to find shelter since becoming homeless in July because she has limited income and refused to give up Cow. The dog, her emotional- support animal, helps her cope with diagnosed depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Theresa Kim recently lost a good friend and tenant who was a dog lover, and heard of Diann and Cow’s plight. She offered Diann the apartment with no deposit, low rent, and utilities included.
Diann “seemed so tired,” Ms. Kim said. “We just needed to get her off the streets.”
Ms. Kim said she knows what it’s like to struggle, and tries to help people in need by providing a place to live.
“That’s always kind of what I’ve done with this home,” she said. “I’ve needed a leg up. If it hadn’t been for the kindness of others, I wouldn’t have this home. Even at your lowest points, you can always extend a hand.”
Diann said she has cried off and on with joy and relief the last few days, and hasn’t been able to fully process all that has happened since Monday.
“It’s probably going to hit me in a few days,” she said. “I am excited I’m off the streets, especially for Cow. She can relax and doesn’t have to worry no more. On the streets, you’ve got to watch your back, stay tough and strong and on guard all the time. We can finally breathe.”
Diann will continue working with Ms. Gorsuch to rebuild an independent life.
“This is a stepping stone for me until I find something bigger and better,” Diann said. “It gives me time to pay off my debts, save some money.”
Ms. Gorsuch works for ProMedica’s new Financial Opportunity Center at the ProMedica Ebeid Institute and Market on the Green, 1806 Madison Ave. The center’s three main services for people in need are income support, employment counseling, and financial education.
The center does not open until Dec. 1, though Ms. Gorsuch is already working with a few clients, including Diann.
“My goal in all of this is making sure [Diann] remains stable,” she said. “She wants to stay housed, pay off past debts, and maybe buy a car at some point. Her goals are extremely reasonable.”
Now that she’s housed, Diann shouldn’t have much trouble maintaining her independence, Ms. Gorsuch said.
“She should be in great shape,” she said. “Long term, I see her still continuing to work on managing her debt and learning how to live within her income. I really can’t foresee her ever becoming homeless again if she stays on track.”
Diann hopes to one day become an advocate for women who have endured human trafficking, domestic violence, and other abuse like she has.
“Toledo came through for me,” she said. “I didn’t think this would happen, never in a million years, but it did for me and Cow.”
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