My name is not hopeless and neither is yours. Regardless of how you came into homelessness, you are still a human being. Keep sharing your experiences until the truth about homelessness becomes common knowledge -- because the way things are going, it might as well be. Let's face it. Homelessness and poverty aren't sexy subjects to present, yet they are a growing epidemic everywhere!
What's sad is how much the public doesn't know about homelessness. Like the fact that there aren't enough resources to prevent homelessness for everybody, yet most people won't do anything about it until they experience a "qualifying event" that forces them into the ranks of homelessness or close to it.
Now here's the kicker: once you know you can no longer keep a roof over your head, you cannot wait until eviction day and assume you can just go into a shelter for "emergency housing." There's no such thing because there are waiting lists and a process you have to go through to determine whether or not you qualify for help. That's right; you have to qualify for assistance. If you don't, there's a big hole in the safety net you thought would be there. So be prepared to hit the cement!
That's what Nicole and Harold found out. Meet Nicole, a 34-year old woman who worked all her adult life while fighting cancer. Her husband Harold is on disability and has a fixed income. When times got rough, they found out that they could not find help by walking into any kind of resource center or housing help program. As of April 23rd, King County made a new change to their 211 line which basically funnels all calls for help until you get connected to a "housing specialist" who then sets up an appointment for you that you could've made by just walking through the front door yourself. Once you get to the appointment, you find out that housing programs still have a minimum of two to three years on their waiting lists. Forget about Section 8 in Washington State because it's closed to apply for and nobody can tell you if and when it will be back.
When the police finally showed up to evict Nicole and Harold, Nicole was already several months pregnant. One officer actually got them a stay at a local hotel but after that, Harold and Nicole bounced around to friend's houses, not knowing when things would get better. When the baby arrived, Nicole and Harold named her Myracle because she truly is a miracle. Nicole was told she could never have children due to cancer that has now been in remission for the last 14 years. When I first met Nicole and Harold, I saw tears. Harold kept blaming himself for their situation and Nicole was slipping into depression. Every time they tried to find help, all they got was the runaround.
Eventually I got all the details and got Nicole's phone number. When Nicole called me to say that the friend they were living with said that that Friday was the last day they could stay, I showed up in the van and loaded up some of their stuff and took them to a hotel in the city of Kent, Washington. I'm not rich; I don't have millions sitting in a bank account somewhere. So I did the only thing I could think of. I got on Facebook and Twitter and told folks about Harold and Nicole and their now 4 week old daughter. Whenever financial donations came through, I went down to the hotel and kept paying for additional stays. I knew that they were losing hope by the day because help for immediate permanent housing simply doesn't exist. Even if Harold and Nicole went out and were able to find jobs right away, how would they pay for child care? If they applied for child care assistance through the state, there's a 6 to 8 week waiting period, which doesn't help when the job starts.
While looking for some kind of opportunities for this family, a woman on Facebook sent me a message telling me about a program in Utah called The Road Home. At first I was skeptical but she was persistent and kept telling me that where she is, they don't have ridiculous waiting lists the way Washington does. I passed the info along to Nicole and Harold so they could decide whether or not they wanted to relocate. They called my new friend immediately and after taking time to think about it, decided to move to another state to start a new life out of homelessness. Of course, the only way to get there was to ask for more donations and generous folks from all over contributed to help put this family on a Greyhound bus to Utah. My Facebook friend and her husband met Nicole, Harold and baby Myracle at the station and brought them to their home.
I know it took a lot of courage to leave everything and everybody you know to go start a new life in a state you've never been to, but for Harold and Nicole it's a better chance than being stuck in homelessness in the city of Kent. Just before Harold, Nicole, and baby Myracle left Washington, another family I met that was living out of their car preceded them to Utah for help they could not find in Kent. These are the people the city of Kent and their Chamber of Commerce say no to every time they find another excuse to deny a homeless resource center.
To these two families I say ... I wish you all the best on your new starts in Utah!
Follow Carey Fuller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/careyfuller