A Little Determination Goes a Long Way for Envision Unlimited Host Family

Envision Unlimited member Ernest with with host mom Mary Zornoza and family

When Envision Unlimited member Ernest was just 14 years old, he was struck by a car. The impact sent him flying 15 feet through the air and left him with a traumatic brain injury and a broken knee. The road to recovery was long. But even though the accident nearly killed him, Ernest believes it saved his life, as it got him off of the streets and ultimately set his life on a better path.

Fast forward to about 2021. Due to the accident, he needed a knee replacement and walked with a walker. However, his doctor wouldn’t authorize surgery until he lost 20 pounds. With determination, discipline and support from family, Ernest dropped the necessary weight and received the procedure. Today, he no longer needs a walker.

“When he wants something, he’ll do it,” said Mary Zornoza, Ernest’s host family mother. “He worked very, very hard to be where he is right now.”

For the past few years, Ernest has lived with Zornoza and her wife through the Envision Unlimited host family program. Similar to the foster care model, the program pairs eligible adult members with intellectual and developmental disabilities with host families, giving them the opportunity to live in a private home and enjoy choice, independence, inclusion and community involvement. We currently have 22 licensed host families participating in our program.

Zornoza says Ernest is already like part of her family. They love going out to eat and playing board games together. He also accompanies them on trips to the laundromat and grocery store. And when Zornoza’s adult children come to visit, they enjoy Ernest’s company.

For others looking to become host families, Zornoza stresses that empathy and patience are important qualities to possess. Once you’re matched with the right member, she says the experience is truly rewarding. “I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world,” she said.

To learn more about the program or how to become a host family, click here or contact host family coordinator Latonia Everett at 773-569-5159 or leverett@envisionunlimited.org.

Photo: Envision Unlimited member Ernest (second from left) with Mary Zornoza (center) and family.