A few months ago we were working with a larger family that had experienced homelessness more than once over the years. Their children ranged in age from four months to fourteen years old. They were always gracious and loved for you to stop and talk for a few minutes. On moving day, the children were beyond excited.
Below, our Rapid Rehousing Coordinator Graham Doege, shares more of their story.
It had been a hard week at the Wilkes Housing & Outreach Center with lines out the door most of the week. It was late Friday afternoon, and it was raining. A lady came in and said her family had been living with her mother, but her mother had told them to leave. She let me know that they were a family of eleven desperate for somewhere to stay. Knowing that our shelter was at full capacity I called Tina, our Executive Director, who said, “Well, maybe you should call Tori,” our Emergency Housing Program Coordinator.”
I called Tori who said, “We are full and have no room, but we will make it work if you give me a day to figure it out.” That night, one of our nonprofit partners paid for them to stay in a motel room. The next morning that same nonprofit partner provided a van to transport the family, and all their belongings, in two trips up the mountain from Wilkesboro to Boone. A couple of weeks later, they declared themselves comfortable and very grateful.
Now my job was to find them housing. A family of eleven, no easy task.
The household consisted of a husband, wife, and the wife’s sister. Each woman had four children. They had supported each other and lived together for eight years. They were a single unit and wanted to stay together. I looked and looked for a single home where they all could live together. Unfortunately, a six-bedroom was not to be found in any of our seven counties.
A few months later I received a call from a landlord with whom I have worked many times. He said, “I don’t rent any units without checking with you first." He had a two-bedroom unit and a three-bedroom unit directly across the street from one another.
It was a miracle.
It was a heavy lift, with many moving parts that had to be coordinated, but finally the day came when we took two ''heads of household' to the complex where they signed rental leases.
On the way back one of the mothers cried and cried and cried, for the entire forty-minute drive until her mascara had run all the way down to her chin. She kept saying, “My 8-year-old will have a bedroom. The three younger ones have never known anything but homelessness. We can finally begin to live."
On moving day, we rented a U-Haul, loaded it with donated beds, mattresses, and furniture. Hearts of Hospitality House provided kitchenware, housewares, cleaning supplies and everything needed to set up house from their 'Fresh Start Initiative.'
Now stable and in their own home, this family has a plan. Two of the adults will work and one will care for the little ones. And, while continuing in our Rapid Rehousing Program, until they are fully self-sufficient, they will be able to save for a car and prepare for their future.
This is why we do this work.
That moving day, multiple staff members loaded those donated beds, mattresses, and furniture into the U-Haul and after a few hours of heavy lifting, the family was all settled in. As they prepared to leave, one of the little girls reached up and took a staff member by the hand and led her to one of the rooms.
She looked up at that staff member with big bright eyes and said, “..this is my room, I have my own bed. I have never had a real bed before.”
Once again, we had the opportunity to redefine “home” for a family. For this little girl, it was having a real bed.
Tina B. Krause