A Place of Our Own
by Dennis Sanders, Content Specialist
They work long hours, seven days a week. Childcare is tenuous. The family is rushed from shelter to school and back again with little chance to relax. No matter how hard they try, they can’t seem to get ahead. No matter how hard they try, their dream of finding home still seems out their reach.
This is the story of Christian and Rachel. The two women and their children have been guests at Beacon’s Families Moving Forward since November 2018. They have three children: two boys ages 10 and 13, and one daughter age 7. The oldest child has mental and intellectual disabilities. Both parents work at the same place, a fast food chain, but still don’t make enough to be able to support their family with permanent shelter. “Our hours are minimal because of our children,” Christian said. She and Rachel work half-days Monday-Thursday in order to see their children off to school and pick them up at the end of the school day. “I mean we do the best we can and we still struggle,” Christian said. Because of an understanding manager, they are able to bring their children to work on Saturday and Sunday, saving precious dollars that would otherwise have to pay for a babysitter. But this also means they are locked into these jobs because they wouldn’t be able to find better childcare options.
The couple explains that every landlord they’ve met requires two and a half-to-three times the monthly rent. While landlords will work with prospective tenants on credit, they don’t give an inch when it comes to the deposit. Rachel adds they both have had evictions on their records, and even though the records can be expunged, landlords still notice.
“Working on a minimum wage job, even if you’re making $12-15 an hour you have to work 60 hours a week just to even make ends meet. As one single person, you can’t do that by yourself,” Rachel said. “Housing is very, very expensive, very expensive. Market rent is expensive,” she adds.
One way that families can find housing is through a housing voucher, which is basically a subsidy to help low income families be able to afford rent. The couple tried to get assistance through Coordinated Entry, the program that helps persons experiencing homelessness find a home, but there are limited resources and they are still waiting for support. And that is what they want. “I feel like if we were offered a two-year subsidy and get our income increased, that would be great,” Rachel said. “But in the position we’re in now, we feel like we’re at a dead end and we’re not going anywhere.” The two have looked at every housing website you can think of – Facebook, Craigslist, Zillow – and used their meager resources to pay the $40 application fee at many potential apartments, all to be told no again and again.
The couple described what it is like for the family while at Families Moving Forward. It means getting up at 6 a.m. to be ready to leave the congregation and head to the Program Center in Minneapolis. Once there, the kids have to shower and get ready for the bus to take them to school. Then it’s off to work for Christian and Rachel. At 4:30 p.m. they pick up their kids and head back to the host congregation to have dinner and then try to get the kids to bed around 8 p.m. They can see how this is affecting their children. “It’s hard when your kid comes to you and asks, ‘When are we going to have a home?’” Christian said. “And you can’t give them an answer.”
The struggle of trying to find a place where their family can live is placing the couple under pressure as well. When asked if they can see a light at the end of the tunnel, their answer indicated a dark future. “I feel like we’re stuck,” Rachel says. “I have no hope,” says Christian. “I mean we’ve done everything possible, we’ve looked into everything possible.”
The two are thankful for people like Sakinah Mujahid, Associate Director of Shelter Operations at Beacon. “She’s like a Mom to me,” Rachel says. Both women said Sakinah gives them space to vent and then works with them to figure out what the next steps in their search will be.
The couple dreams of having a three or four-bedroom home that would be their “forever home.” They long for a home where their children can be comfortable being themselves and no longer have to deal with the stress of homelessness. “I don’t want to have to go through this again,” Rachel said. Tears of frustration were visible on the faces of both women. They long for some kind of subsidy that can help them become self-sufficient. “We just want a subsidy to help us get back up on our feet and make sure our kids are stable,” Rachel said. Christian agrees. “I just want my family stable, in a place of our own.”