August 22, 2016

A year and a half ago 73-year-old Alice Miller was homeless, with a just a few bags of clothes and a small radio to her name. All that changed when she found an apartment to live in at Parkside Garden Apartments in Ocala, Fl. When on-site resident services coordinator Diane McElveen assessed Miller’s situation, she quickly sprang into action, reaching out to partners who donated a bed, living room furniture, pots and pans, sheets, towels, and more so that Miller would be outfitted with basic necessities in her new residence.

In helping Miller set up her home, McElveen quickly got to know Miller and learned that the Jamaican born resident was not an American citizen, but wanted very much to be one. According to McElveen, Miller was a legal permanent alien who did not realize she qualified for citizenship. She also did not have the several hundred dollars needed to pay for various citizenship requirements.

Fortunately, McElveen was able to download all the forms Miller needed to fill out, and learned that Miller could apply for a fee waiver because she had been working legally in the U.S. for over 15 years. “Without the financial barrier or the barrier of navigating and accessing resources, we were able to get everything together to apply for Miller’s citizenship,” explained McElveen.

“Six months later, Ms. Alice rushed into my office, hopping up and down with the biggest smile I have seen in a very long time, holding a letter in her hand from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services. Miller’s application had been accepted!”

Once Miller traveled to Orlando to have her finger prints and photo taken for the ‘biometrics’ part of the process, she immediately began studying for the written naturalization test with her friend, Kim Kendall. Miller also set up twice-per-week study sessions with McElveen.  And because of Miller’s age, McElveen was able to get the new essay portion of the naturalization test waived for Miller.

After months of brushing up on American history and civics with Kendall and McElveen as her tutors, Miller finally took her written test a few weeks ago, which she was thrilled to find out she had passed. “I’m so excited for Ms. Alice!” exclaimed McElveen. “In just one year, she found a home at Parkside Garden and became an official U.S. citizen. That really is the American dream and something we’re all so proud of.”