This month started off with a bang! On Monday I received three requests for rental assistance. The first, a senior $200 short because of an unexpected car payment. Followed by a single, adult woman caught between pay periods leaving her part time job that didn’t pay enough to landing a full time position, and finally a family whose sole breadwinner was injured and out of work for 3 weeks. Today (Day 3 of the week!) I received another call from a homeless couple, a referral from a local church, asking for help.
The good news is that we have found funding for 2 of the 3 and I expect to hear tomorrow morning on the third. I am hopeful!
Before I knew how my week would begin I was waiting at the bus stop with my girls Monday morning. While they played in the early morning sun, I listened to a story on the radio about the impact of unpaid family leave. The story documented a family who, upon having a premature delivery, discovered that they did not have paid leave. When the infant died she, Glynn, had to return to work within weeks.
“When it was time for me to go back to work, the first question everybody asks you is, ‘Are you really ready to come back?’… And I wasn’t. And I’m still not completely myself yet.”
But the bills couldn’t wait.
“They kept my job, which was fantastic,” Glynn said. “And they were supportive in the sense of, you know, emotionally being there. But unfortunately financially we couldn’t handle it. Even now, just yesterday, we were trying to group our money together to be able to keep our heat from getting disconnected again.”
This story is disheartening on many levels, and as I sat there watching my children dance and play in expectation of the day ahead, the story continued with an advocate offering this assessment: “People are realizing that when this many people are having the exact same problem at the exact same time, we don’t have an epidemic of personal failings.”
Distracted by the arrival of the bus, my attention turned to watching my girls race to mount the oversized steps aboard. Trailing the oily haze of diesel exhaust I made my way to the office. Upon arrival I was met by a tsunami of calls and my mind returned to the argument that “we don’t have an epidemic of personal failings.”
I struck me as true that we do often assume those facing financial crisis, such as the inability to pay a portion or none of rent, are at fault. When our culture operates with this belief those facing situations like homelessness internalize the blame. A mother, living in a hotel for 2 weeks unable to find housing, told me she was pathetic.
Sifting through the application paperwork I knew full well that it wasn’t just myself that was slammed on Monday morning. Organization’s like ours all across the metro were facing similar requests. Yes, there are plenty of cases where financial instability are the result of a personal misstep, I am not denying that, but the volumes of those on limited and inadequate income testifies to a larger, systemic issue.