For the last year, James’ life has been on hold.
The 52 year-old hard-working single father cares for his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Brittany. James worked full-time at an auto shop, but he had to put his job on hold to care for his eldest daughter when she was diagnosed with cancer. Because he was not working in order to take care of Ashley, James got behind on rent and Ashley’s medical bills. This resulted in eviction from their suburban home and even worse, splitting up the family. For several months, James had to stay at one shelter while Brittany and Ashley were at a youth shelter. In order to keep the family together during the four months they were separated, James made sure to visit his daughters at their shelter. “I was there every day,” he said.
In September 2018 James reunited with his daughters at Families Moving Forward. It was here that he received the resources he needed to find housing, including a subsidy and case management services. In theory, the subsidy allowed James to find housing in the suburbs. In reality, he would spend more time on hold. The majority of the landlords would not rent to his family for many reasons, such as the recent eviction, a past criminal record, and his unemployment. “It was very depressing,” he says. “You would get your hopes up and then you’d learn they rejected you for someone paying market rate.”
James faced consistent denial from countless landlords for months. The result was a feeling of hopelessness and full of doubt that he could care for his daughters. “It was hard to cope with,” James said.
However, the continuous support from the staff at Families Moving Forward helped James to find hope even in the darkest time. His two daughters were his reason to keep pushing forward and to find housing for them. Finally, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. James moved into his new home in the suburbs in early May. He looks back at the moment when Beacon’s Associate Director of Shelter Operations Sakinah Mujahid told him he finally had place to call home. “Yeah, James? This is Sakinah. You got accepted!” he recalls Sakinah saying. His initial response was one of disbelief. “Accepted into what?” he remembered with a laugh.
Unemployment and medical debt are two common reasons that families end up without a home. Families Moving Forward works with families and landlords to help those experiencing homelessness to smooth out the barriers and find a new home.
Now that his life is no longer on hold, James can move on to other things, such as looking for stable employment. He hopes to find a third shift job to allow him to also take care of Ashley during the day.
“I’m ready to leave, what else do I need to do?” James would ask during his months at Families Moving Forward, wondering if there was anything more he could do to find a home. More than 200 days after coming into the shelter, James’ life is no longer on hold. He and the girls are moving forward. Together.