Erika and her family arrived in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, from Venezuela searching for a better life. A single mother, she was looking for job opportunities, as the economic situation in Venezuela collapsed. But without a degree, she found few prospects and began to feel hopeless. “My morale was low, and I was depressed,” she said.
In November 2021, an invitation to a community support group in her neighborhood changed Erika’s life and her family’s future. The women’s mutual support group that she joined is part of the Acogida program, which connects Venezuelan migrants in the region to essential services and resources. Through the group, Erika was introduced to Acogida’s rent subsidies initiative, which supports vulnerable migrants with nine months of rent payments.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Acogida is a comprehensive protection program that supports Venezuelan migrants and vulnerable Colombians in host communities. To alleviate housing costs and help families avoid unsafe situations, our team works with local property owners to identify available housing for people in need. By ensuring a safe place to stay, the effort aims to give families the physical, emotional, and financial space to find their footing.
Members of the support group helped Erika start the program application, collect important documents, and secure an interview. Before long, Erika was set to receive nine months of rent payments from Blumont.
Erika is now investing in her education and pursuing her goal of finding a full-time job after finishing her courses. A secure place to live gave her the space to focus on her future.
“It has been a blessing. I was able to start my studies, which will allow me to get a stable job,” she said. Erika is taking information technology classes so she can launch a new career and support her family.
She has continued to participate in the Acogida women’s mutual support group as well. A psychologist guides the women through the healing process and helps them process trauma. Erika said the group, “is an amazing experience where I learned about myself, made new friends, strengthened myself on the inside, and made an effort to change my own reality – to begin studying and move forward.”
When her classes end next Spring, Erika will take on an internship that will help her pay the bills as she transitions into the Colombian labor market. After the internship, Erika said, she hopes to work for a national company in Colombia with a salary and benefits. The rent subsidy was the opportunity she needed to get on this path.
Erika’s self-pride was palpable as she shared her story with the women’s support group in July. “The support was so immense that it gave me the strength and ability to live,” she said. “I am so emotional and grateful for the people who, without knowing me personally, have supported me and given me a subsidy.”