Mother and daughter burst into tears when I offered to find a temporary home for their nine year old Lhasa Apso. “I’d rather camp out than leave him behind. It would be like abandoning a baby. If I were an inconvenience, would you leave me behind? I’d never forgive you”, the fourteen year old daughter, Hope, cried. Then Hope’s mother, Faith, confided, “When I feel hopeless he jumps up on the bed, flips on his back and looks at me with his adoring, reassuring eyes. I can’t imagine a day without him. He’s our little angel.”
You’d think it would be easy for Faith to find secure work that pays enough to live on. As a hard and devoted worker with thirty years’ experience in customer service, Faith has excellent computer and web design skills — an asset in any office. With a decent job, they could escape living in a motel, day to day, depending on help from her mother and sister, and wearing out their welcome with friends. Sometimes Faith has ended up in a tent in friends’ back yards with the pup, depending on the landlord and space. Other times mother and daughter have had to separate to double up with friends in studio apartments or rooms.
When Faith was laid off from a stable job due to downsizing, she launched a massive job hunt and pieced together cleaning vacation rentals in spite of two herniated disks and failed back surgery. Over time she was able to raise the first, last and security deposit to move into a small apartment, but when her landlord realized she couldn’t pay the full rent on the first of each month (since she was paid on the fifth and thirtieth ), he asked them to leave — two weeks into Hope’s starting high school. Then they stayed with another friend until she lost her home to foreclosure.
Faith has raised her two children by herself. Hope hasn’t seen her dad in four years, and her brother, now 24, was only three when his father left. “When I put my son through school, he never had to go through this – he never experienced homelessness.” Faith sent both of her children to Julie Rohr Academy, a private school for the performing arts. They thrived with self-expression and joy, but now her daughter has become painfully introverted and walks around school with a fake smile on her face to keep from breaking down or letting on to their situation. “She won’t even let me use the word ‘homeless’ to describe our situation.
“My biggest priority is for her to be happy. She’s normally a happy girl, but I can see the sadness in her,” Faith explained. “Hope is a good girl. She’s had a few challenges lately with our living conditions and with friends who’ve made the wrong decisions, but she’s done the right thing and walked away from a bad situation and called me. I remind her every day of how proud I am of her.
“I want a secure office job. I am very devoted to my work and have great references. I’ve had interviews and really want this job – it’s what I love to do. I get a second interview, but then no call, no email. That’s when the depression starts to set in. People tell me it’s the economy. I used to have three or four job offers at once, and now I can’t even get one job.”
The only impediment to secure housing and escaping from homelessness for this mother-daughter-pup team is a stable job that pays a living wage. Faith is a strong, responsible, independent woman who has succeeded throughout her life in providing for her children and maintaining a warm, loving home. Surely, somewhere in Compassionate Sarasota there is a good job for Faith, and an affordable apartment or house near Hope’s school – Riverview High School. This is a straightforward, uncomplicated wrong that we can right with so little effort.
Step Up Sarasota.
www.stepupsarasota.org tel. (941)565-1540
Marguerite Jill Dye served on the Health and Human Services Committee for the Suncoast Partnership in developing the Step Up: End Homelessness in Sarasota County Now ten year plan. Jill has an MA in Inter-cultural Management and is an artist/writer living in Sarasota and Vermont. (MargueriteJillDye.wordpress.com)