It was on a Monday late morning in October that I met Cassie.
She wheeled a stroller into my office with two toddlers in tow. She had just given birth to daughter number three. Her smile faded quickly when she told me she had to appear that afternoon for an eviction hearing. She was in arrears with the rent to the tune of $750, reflecting one and a half months.
She explained she and her husband were both working until two months before her delivery. Complications with her pregnancy resulted in her doctor ordering bed rest. Soon after, her husband’s work hours were reduced. He is a midlevel manager in a fast-food restaurant.
After several weeks he was about to have his hours reinstated, but his children contracted pink eye and he wasn’t permitted to return until they were well.
Could I help, she asked?
I offered to write her a letter she could present to the court requesting 30 days to give me time to contact her landlord, and hopefully reverse this eviction and resolve her situation. I was fairly certain the court would honor that request for the sake of this family. “Call me after your hearing so we can plan forward,” I said.
That afternoon she called, sobbing, saying the court would not accept my letter and ordered her out by Friday at 5 p.m. I asked for her landlord’s contact information hoping to avert this family being homeless.
When I reached the landlord, I offered to pay the arrearage. She said no, that she had pipeline workers willing to pay $900 per month waiting to move in.
I next called the Salvation Army, asking if they had family rooms available, but they were full.
When I reported these things to Cassie she said she and her husband and the kids were going to just live in their van until they could save enough money to start over. She said she had no family and no friends willing to take in five people.
The thought of this family living in a van was unacceptable. It was October for God’s sake.
That’s when I remembered we had a vacant building that could serve as their temporary residence until a better plan could be realized. I had the utilities turned on, moved them in, stocked the kitchen with food and made the Friday deadline.
After two months, they were able to save enough funds to start over. I made a deal with a sympathetic landlord whom I knew, and the family moved into their new home.
A couple weeks later, Cassie invited me to come by and see her home. It would be Christmas soon, and she was overjoyed to celebrate the holiday in her own place. She had a gift for me — a framed picture of her family in gratitude for the help.
That picture is on my bookshelf. It serves as a constant reminder that for the sake of the kids, we must find more ways to help homeless families.