Last month, I sent an email to the area superintendent of my daughter’s school asking to be connected with a family who was displaced for the holidays. I wanted to help a family who was in transitional housing by paying their rent for December and gifting them with a home cooked meal.
I was piped with the Homeless Liaison and she connected me to a woman I will refer to as Lisa. Lisa is a single mother with 3 teenage children living is an extended stay. I was so excited to speak with her and help her until…
In our first conversation, Lisa told me that she worked 12 hour shifts in a warehouse but still manages to get up in the morning and assist her children with remote learning (bait comment). They are in middle school and high school, all taking classes from their cramped hotel room (bait comment).
When she told me that she worked 12 hours a day, I sat up. When she told me she had been in a hotel for two years, I stood up and put my “Dana, housing professional” hat on. And when she told me she makes $22.25 an hour (yes, you read that correctly) and averages 10 hours of overtime a week I was floored.
I did the math quickly and asked her annual salary. She said, “about $25K”. No, that is $46,280, plus overtime at time and a half! She had no idea how much she made, therefore she had no idea how much she spends and wastes.
She explained that an eviction record was preventing her from securing an apartment.
I immediately went into coaching mode and explained to her that I oversee a program that could help her secure permanent housing and there were some very practical things she could do that would allow her to rent an apartment within 60 days and purchase a home within 18-24 months.
There was a difference in her energy immediately when I told her my value to her extended beyond paying her rent in a hotel for a couple weeks and that she did not need financial assistance. She makes decent money.
Money is not her problem. Failure to assume responsibility is her problem. Failure to pay her bills on time is her problem. Failure to pay her debts are her problem. Failing to manage her resources effectively are her problem. Failure to change how she treats money is her problem.
I sent her a link to her 1st steps to gage her seriousness. She never opened the email.
When she texted me to see if I was still going to pay her rent, I said no. When she asked why, I told her that she wants to be helped and not empowered and I do not have the energy for that but I would contribute the money I was going to use to pay her rent towards her security deposit OR closing costs.
She wanted to hang up on me.
Lisa has found currency in the empathy she receives from being a single mother living in a hotel with 3 kids. The rewards of being first on the “help list” outweigh those of being at a closing table with her 3 kids.
It is unfortunate that she is stick in this role of victim but I do not help people remain victims. That does not line up with my worldview.
Most of us have had setbacks. Most of us have lost jobs and were unable to pay bills for a season. Most of us have needed someone to help us. I certainly have. There is no shame in life happening. There is no shame in being hit hard and knocked down.
The shame is in not shaking it off and getting up. The shame is in not realizing that we need to do better and the tragedy is in not doing better.
The world has enough victims and not nearly enough victors!