Friday, March 30, 2012

A beautiful family, down on their luck

I'm nearly a month late writing this. At our last board meeting, Barb told us about a family of 7 living in a truck she had found. With the board's approval- and because illness was beginning to set in- she spent $500 to put them up in a hotel for a couple of nights, letting them get the sleep they needed. Thinking about this, I began to arrange for them to spend the summer on my brother's farm. But before I could meet with them and do the background checks my brother requested, they got into an emergency shelter for 30 days. This post is as much to remind me to call Barb and ask if she's had any contact with them since. Their story was a hard one. Several years ago, when they were living in Southern California, they had an argument. The neighbor considered it bad enough to call the police- he was arrested and convicted of domestic disturbance, becoming a felon. That was the end of his career as a train locomotive engineer; he then had to start taking whatever jobs he could to keep the family afloat. She started taking jobs too, but without a college diploma, only low-skilled work was available. They tried to move halfway across the country, with family, in Louisiana, but then Katrina hit- and their extended family was scattered across the United States. That's when they landed in Portland- with what they assumed were good government jobs that FEMA had found for them. They started renting the biggest house they could afford for their 5 children, and for a few years they were OK. But then the recession hit- and local governments have had to lay people off. The aging house they were in began having problems, and between them falling behind on the rent and the repairs, the landlord couldn't afford to keep up. Just before Christmas, with no jobs on the horizon and former employers disputing their unemployment benefits, they had to move out. At the beginning of March, I met this family in their hotel in Gresham. I spent several hours visiting with their oldest son, who wants to get into dance and video game design (Microsoft Kinect?). Of course, there's now no money for college for him. I didn't know where the parents were, only that they were late- and then a miracle occurred. They came in, having been through the ringer of an interview- but had housing for the family for the next month- enough time to get their unemployment and into a better housing situation on their own income. This is what Barb does. If you are in Portland, come support her work. The Knights of Columbus John Clare Council will be holding a benefit breakfast for Barb on April 29th, at St. Clare's Catholic Church, 8535 SW 19th Ave, Portland, OR 97219, 8:30am-12:30pm. Help another family get off the streets.