Hi! I’m Ericka Miller, a queer physically disabled woman and the Executive Director of Disability Moving Assistance, an organization aimed to help disabled people crush the barrier of financial burden or lack of physical help.
Starting over is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have the resources to put your life back together again. I was faced with a moving crisis in 2015 when I finally found work after being on SSDI for over a year. The problem was I lived outside Orlando, Florida and I needed to move to Rochester, New York over 21 hours away. I was married at the time and we were living on his income from a supermarket. We had no savings and often had to use community resources for free food after maxing our credit cards on groceries.
When my ex-husband agreed to move, we didn’t know how we were going to do it. We saved up as much money as we can but it still ended up not being enough. We were fortunate that my best friend was able to drive the truck once we were finally able to rent one. We packed up our apartment, my friend packed up the truck so he could leave the next day. Then my ex and I packed up our car and our little kitten, Gallifrey, and were on our way! I thought we were in the clear until I found out a few days later, that we hadn’t used our savings to pay off the remainder of the rent.
My ex and I had dipped out on the payment! That was just the start of our troubles. The apartment we were supposed to view had just been rented an hour before we arrived in Rochester. We had to start over with the other option we had (a more expensive option at that) and nail down an appointment with their office. It was the weekend so we needed to figure out a place to stay in the meantime in a town where we didn’t know anyone saves for my new boss. We stayed the weekend in a Holiday Inn hoping something would change before we went totally bankrupt. ]
It was two months before we were able to get into our apartment, I had already started my job so I had to do my best to stay clean in a small hotel room with my ex and our cat. It was hard and we ended up fighting a lot, but we managed to get a new apartment and could finally relax. Within a few months, after I started my position, he was able to find a job as well and we could breathe a little easier. It was about a year later that we separated and I had to start my life all over again. This time I was alone and terrified of losing the apartment we had fought for. Thankfully, my mother is finance minded and she shared some of her experience with budgeting to make me feel more comfortable. Once I spoke to her, I realized I was better off financially alone than with him. I felt free for the first time in a while. I knew I could do this.
From there, I maintained my budget and didn’t have to worry about where my next meal was coming from again. I took this lesson to heart though and I started looking into moving resources for disabled people. I soon realized there wasn’t any while working at Independent Living Centers. There were plenty of senior and disabled people who also maxed out their credit cards and used up their savings just trying to move to a better life. From there, I put together a game plan. In the disability community, if there aren’t resources to access things we need, we build them ourselves. So that is what I did and how Disability Moving Assistance was started. It started with Lisa. Lisa lived in the northeast at a center I worked for and all she had was small savings and her credit cards. She didn’t have any friends or family who could afford to help her or even help her physically. She was alone so she maxed out her credit cards, used up her savings, and borrowed as much money as she could. It was still not enough but she knew the door would be locked with her belongings so she did her best. She managed to get to her apartment but very soon found that it was not a very safe place for her to live. Only this time, she had loads of debt to pay back and there were still no resources to help her. Working with Lisa, my understanding of this gap in service was even more apparent. I had to help somehow. After I left the center, I started looking into what it would take to build a non-profit to help disabled people in similar situations as myself and Lisa have access to financial and physical resources depending on their needs.
Since then, my dream is beginning to be realized. We are about to hit non-profit status and we are slowly gaining the capital needed to help people in a meaningful way. It was a result of working with mentors in my career, that I felt empowered to be able to put this organization together for the sake of others.
Ericka Miller is a queer disabled woman who uses a wheelchair. She is the Executive Director of Disability Moving Assistance, a new organization focused on helping disabled people pay for the expenses one has related to moving. She lives in Rochester, NY with her fiancé, Parker, and her two cats Gallifrey and Abigail Sciuto. Her passions include making new tasty recipes and advocating for the disability community. o. Her passions include making new tasty recipes and advocating for the disability community.
Photo credit: from Pexels: Judita Tamasiunaite - Insta @judita-tamasiunaite, Anna Pyshniuk - Insta @anna.pyshniuk, Montsera - Insta @bolovtsova, PhotoMIX Company