Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Brush with Homelessness

Editor's Note: We asked a NWLS law worker to reflect on his own experiences with the threat of homelessness for this edition of our newsletter.

We all know it exists, most of us have seen it, and, like many others, I thought it could never happen to me.

Also, like many others, it almost did -- more than once.

My first experience with homelessness came several years ago. My family was evicted from an apartment we were sharing with a relative after an issue came up in our rental agreement and we were forced out. We had no money saved and a limited income. My wife, daughter and myself shared one bedroom at my mother’s house with all our belongings stacked in her dining room.

After several months, we got "on our feet" and got our own apartment. Ten months later I lost my job and we were evicted again. So it was back to my mother's house with my daughter and my now-pregnant wife. Fortunately, we were able to get back on our own again about two months later.

My wife and I realized we needed to prevent his type of thing from happening again. We attended a month-long credit counseling program and used money from employment and income tax returns to pay off our outstanding debts. I went back to school, earned a degree and found a good, full-time job. Things were looking up; we began to search for a home to purchase.

We were accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program and began to go through the process of securing our home through the agency.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Our landlord showed up at our door with an eviction notice after he decided it was easier to get rid of us than to fix the living conditions that made our apartment unsafe. Did I mention that this was two months before Christmas?

This time, our saving grace came from the kindness of good friends and relative strangers who provided my family with a financial gift that enabled us to find a new apartment while we continued through with Habitat for Humanity.

Thankfully things worked out and we are now in our new home.

What I understand quite well, though, is that unfortunate circumstances can happen to anyone, and any of us could be homeless.