Sparking Hope - Pleasantville Right Here in Durham, NC

Not every quarterly home inspection takes me to another place. But the morning I walked up the three steps onto the front porch of the house shared by Margaret and her three children, I felt like I’d walked into Pleasantville. She sat on her porch chair sipping a cup of coffee while watching her neighbors work on their car. Everything about the situation was pleasant. A fragrant spring breeze, a cup of coffee on the front porch, and a visitor stopping by; a remarkable difference from two years earlier.

Late 2016, Margaret and John found themselves looking down at eviction papers. They had three children. John was unemployed. She was transitioning between jobs. She remembers the spotty insulation that led to massive heating bills. And she remembers the depression that settled in when she recognized they were too far behind to ever catch up on paying their bills.

Evicted. Again. It’s hard to push through the depression when life’s trail is littered with obstacles to overcome - a husband’s criminal background (making employment difficult), low income from waitressing, multiple evictions, and two large (and outstanding) utility bills. A hotel room became the immediate solution.

In February of 2017 Margaret and her children moved into Families Moving Forward (one of our Collaborative partners), an emergency shelter for families with children, where they stayed for six months. Margaret continued to work as a waitress and secured additional hours at another franchise location. She regulated her schedule to work during the day – allowing her time with her children before and after school while living at the shelter.

August 1, 2017, the family was referred to the Rapid Re-Housing Program at Housing for New Hope. The Re-Housing Team’s job was to offer counseling and case management to Margaret while finding her and her children a new place to call home. With multiple evictions and outstanding bills still owed, the Re-Housing Team was unable to find a landlord willing to assume the risk involved with housing the family. That’s when the Rapid Re-Housing team’s creative problem solving kicked in. They facilitated a discussion that led to a renewed agreement between Margaret and her previous landlord. The landlord would offer an available house to Margaret and her children, and she would re-pay the balance owed to the landlord from when she previously rented from him!

John visits the family on the weekends and helps with childcare while Margaret works. And six months later, Margaret sits on her porch looking around her neighborhood with pride. She participates in case management services with Housing for New Hope staff. She talks about her “re-trained brain” as we visit on the front porch.

“Being in a shelter caused me to re-train my brain. I’ll never be in that position again.”

We believe that’s possible.

During the housing inspection, Margaret talked about her plans to maintain her housing. As advised by her case manager, she pre-paid her rent with her tax return. She has re-paid back debt. She’s managed to save money for the car she hopes to receive through Wheels of Hope. Margaret credits case management and budgeting as reasons for her success.

Housing for New Hope is grateful to be part of the family’s story. A cup of coffee on the front porch seems a perfect setting for catching up and looking forward.

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