Seek Help Immediately

by Susan Redner

Typically, there are a multitude of issues causing families or individuals to become homeless. For people who are earning minimum wage it’s much easier to fall into homelessness than it is for people who earn more, and much more difficult to get out. According to a report done in June by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an individual needs to make $15.50 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Guilford County. Minimum wage is $7.25 an hour which is only $290 a week before taxes. For a person who is homeless and trying to stay in a hotel room, it’s almost impossible to afford on minimum wage. A cheap room in Greensboro is $40 a night or $280 a week.

I met Jim 6 months ago. He had recently started a new job and he was relieved to be working. Jim had gotten out of the hospital a few months earlier and only had enough money saved to stay in a hotel for a few months.

His new employer promised Jim he’d make over 40K a year in commission. Jim’s abilities were limited because of poor health, plus the hiring manager was not being completely honest, resulting in Jim making minimum wage.

Before long Jim had to move to a less expensive hotel with a room and amenities that were not as pleasant. He kept working though, hoping to make more money, but within just a few months, Jim ran out of money and was evicted. He refused to go to a shelter, and instead, Jim moved into his car.

Jim goes back and forth between living in his car and staying a room. During those times when he’s living in his car, he washes up in rest stops and gets his clothes cleaned at the cleaners. After work he drives around town for hours trying to find a safe place to park for the night. He likes to watch old TV shows on YouTube to occupy himself but he has trouble keeping his phone charged. Recently his car  began having a mechanical issue that might require repairs Jim can’t afford.

Jim is convinced he’ll be okay, especially since he can stay at a hotel intermittently. Unfortunately, many times, the situation Jim is in leads to that individual losing everything and ending up on the street.

Cheryl is a good example of what happens to people when they start down the road to homelessness. After years of working, Cheryl lost her job. She left her family and moved to Greensboro hoping to find work.  She had a little money and was able to stay in a hotel room and she had a car so she could get around. Because she parked in the wrong place at the wrong time her car was impounded. At that point she didn’t have enough money to get it out and had to give up on it. Most of Cheryl’s belongings were in the car including her laptop. After she lost her car she stayed in a shelter for a while but when that didn’t work out, she ended up living on the street. Once someone starts trying to survive outside it isn’t long before they are arrested, and that’s exactly what happens to Cheryl. She was arrested for trespassing. Now, with a police record, not place to live, no car and no job, her prospects are grim. It was painful to watch Cheryl fall so hard I hope  the same thing doesn’t happen to Jim.

It’s hard to convince someone who is still working and has reliable transportation that the path they’re on is perilous. Reaching out for help the moment you begin to lose ground is the best chance you have to save yourself. It’s easier to get help when you are still in your home. It’s easier to get help when you still have a job. It’s easier to get help when you still have a car.

If you find yourself moving towards the edge of possible homelessness, seek help immediately. Don’t take a chance on falling so far down you can’t make it back up.

“Evicted” Book Review

by Stephanie Thomas

Evicted, written by Matthew Desmond, will change your perspective on the causes and result of evictions. In his book, Desmond follows 8 families through the process of being evicted. He spends an enormous amount of time with each family, allowing us to get a close look into their personal lives, revealing the effect evictions has on them.

The eight families featured in the book live in Milwaukee, in what most of us would consider extreme poverty. When they and their families are evicted, they lose more than a place to live. Some of lose all of their possessions. One loses his job. Most lose access to decent neighborhoods. With poorer neighborhoods comes poorer schools, and no chance for the children to get a descent education.

In Milwaukee, people are evicted for a multitude of reasons. One family is evicted after they complain about unsanitary living conditions, another because an ambulance is called for a child with asthma, and still another because the landlord had failed to pay the mortgage on the property.

Another tragedy that befalls families who lose their homes is they frequently have to put their belongings in storage. Once this happens, it is not uncommon for the families to be unable to pay the storage fees. At that point, their possessions are auctioned off and they lose everything including household items, furniture, clothes, the children’s belongings, medicine, and even food. To make things worse, once an eviction is on an individuals record it either forces them into less desirable housing, a homeless shelter, or the street.

Every city is different in the way it handles its poor. Some are worse than others. Greensboro has its own issues, but in spite of the difficulties our poor and homeless face, we are kinder and more generous than some of the larger cities.

If you work with individuals and families living in poverty, struggling to keep a roof over their head, this is a must read.