Local issues

Please read this woman’s story and tell me how to address her housing problem

One of the things that frustrates me the most is that I get a dozen or so emails each week from folks desperately looking for housing.  Since I work on housing policy and programs and do not provide direct assistance there is little that I can can do to help other than refer them to programs with long waiting lists and sometimes to apartments that are not places that are safe and decent to live.

I am really frustrated reading these emails because there are so few good answers to their urgent housing needs.

I received one of those emails this morning and it kinda made me snap.

So I am posting it here in hopes that it does two things: 1) Causes someone to think of a housing solution for this woman; and 2) Inspires us to go out there and fight harder to get answers to these type of housing problems.

If you have any suggestions I can pass along to Darlene please post a comment or send me an email.

Dear John:

My name is Darlene.  I live in a rural area East of Austin.  I write to implore your assistance.

My daughter, Charlene lives and works in San Antonio.  She and her young son barely make it from month to month.  Her tiny duplex costs her $500 per month and so far she has been able – (with my assistance) to stay there.  Now I too am broke.

Before, Hurricane Katrina, she was on some housing list for over 2 years.  They are well below the poverty guideline, yet she only receives Food Stamps and Medicaid for her son.  None for herself.  She like many others is faced with the decision of whether to pay her electric bill or her Rent.

MY QUESTION:  Is there anyway you could look into getting her little place being turned into a HUD house, so that she can afford to stay in her home?  Her son was not 5 years old until after the September 1st deadline keeping her stuck with the high cost of day care as well.

Her child’s father is being held in county jail awaiting trial.  However, they’d parted long before his arrest he never made visitation much less gave her money to support his child before the arrest, and she is in no hope of ever seeing support from him in the future.  Her sole relief is her Food Stamps, which took months to get re-instated once the system failed her miserably last year over the holidays and she was without that service for 6 months.

They periodically remove her son’s Medicaid as well w/o notice.  Like right now, he has none!  She’s working on getting that fixed and I have him.  It all just takes time.  Time she doesn’t have with all the run around, and NO MONEY!

ETC. . .
Charlene is doing everything possible to keep a home, she has held down two, sometimes three jobs and attended school to get her paralegal degree improving her job skills.  Now recently graduated, and living in an unsure economy people are being laid off, not hired.  Although her Internship with an attorney went well, he is not in a position to hire her at this time.

Her sole livelihood depends on the three nights per week being a bouncer at the local disco.  The pay is not enough to make Rent, Utilities, Day Care/Night Care, Gas to get to and fro, plus now – pay for her education.  She rode the bus system over a year in this heat, getting her son to and from Day Care and Night Care, unable to spend time with him herself. (Several exchanges each way)  When she works late nights the buses stop running and there is only one way to get him, by begging rides from co-workers to take her 16 miles across town, then home.  At times they have left her standing at the curb while getting her son.  Many nights she has wondered if they would make it one more night.  The high cost of fuel has hindered them from wanting to help her, as she used up all favors.  $10 does not buy much gas.

Because she just finished school, I was willing to assist her with getting an old car, and paid her insurance until March of 2009.  Alleviating her that burden for a time.  Now, I’m broke.

Any assistance you can give us is much appreciated John.  I know too, you can only do so much.

Regards,

Darlene

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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