Ever wonder what it is like to be a homeless mom? Our guest blogger today is Carey Fuller (@Indyinnz). She’s a west coast mom, who like most of us, wants the best for her kids. Thank you for sharing your story, Carey.
When I first heard about Help A Mother Out, it was on Twitter. I saw some tweets flash by and thought to myself, “Okay, who are they and what are they about?” I clicked on the link to go to the website and reading about mothers needing diapers sure brought back a lot of memories of my first born and my youngest daughter so this looked like a cause I could really “get behind”! I’m sure that my experiences will differ from most since I raised my kids for seven years out of a Minnie Winnebago and now, a mini-van.
Like most people who find themselves homeless, I never thought that one day I’d be homeless. In April of 2004 I moved into a 1981 Minnie Winnebago with a nine-year old and a one and a half year old. I tried to get help before things got to this point but soon discovered that Section 8 was closed to applications in my state and for those already on the waiting lists for several years, if they got housing vouchers, it would be awarded on a lottery basis. Shelters weren’t an option since they were so over loaded people were getting turned away in fact that still is the case. Most cities never built shelters to handle the volumes we see now. Add to this the fact that many shelters are not safe places to be and you can see why I preferred the Minnie Winnebago instead.
My original plan was to try to save enough money to buy my own property while living out of the RV but….gas prices shot up and if you’ve ever owned a motor home, you know how much gas they eat! As a result of prices going up, I couldn’t save anything to get out of our situation. One thing piled up on another as a result of being homeless. For instance, landlord’s want to see a current rental history and once you’re homeless, you don’t have that. I had a manager of an apartment complex tell me that the rental history couldn’t be from a trailer park either (something she volunteered to offer once she saw that I had driven there in the RV).
When I first moved into the RV I had lost my job and child support completely stopped. Just because you have a support order DOES NOT mean it can be collected, especially if a dead beat uses his knowledge as an attorney to play every loophole he can find. I had lost my job and what little money I had was what remained of my tax refund after I purchased the Winnebago. 8 months went by before I was able to get a part time job working nights at a local newspaper plant. The job only paid $8.00 an hour but it was enough for gas. I didn’t have childcare nor could I afford it. When I worked two jobs, I paid $460.00 a month, childcare was $960.00. I would park the RV in front of the warehouse facing the windows so that I could see it from where I was at. I would check on the kids sleeping in the upper bunk on my break. I was a nervous wreck from worrying that a co-worker would find out.
When daylight came, I woke the kids up and got my eldest ready for school. Per her request, I would park down the street from the school so that she could walk the rest of the way without anyone finding out she lived in a motor home. She was very adamant about the other kids not finding out. As for my youngest, she didn’t know the difference. To her, growing up in the Winnebago was perfectly normal and when we went to spend nights at friend’s house, she didn’t like it. She would keep asking to go back to OUR house, the RV. Whenever school was out, we hung out in campgrounds or parks during the day. We slept in WalMart parking lots, rest stops, truck stops and any other commercial site that allowed us to. Eventually I was able to find a friend who worked at the newspaper to help me with childcare and six months later, I got a full-time day job working at a financial services company. I was back to working two jobs again but doing this for years on end, seven days a week has consequences.
I worked with little sleep until I collapsed, what else could I do? I didn’t qualify for foodstamps at the time or any other “state aid” so I had no other choice. I never thought I’d see the day where I would stay up at night behind the steering wheel of a Winnebago and listen to my kids cry themselves to sleep because they were hungry. I never thought I’d see the day that my own relatives would treat me as though I contacted a contagious disease either but that’s what happens when you tell folks you are homeless. Rather than let my situation drag me down I decided to do something about it.
I decided to tell my story to an editor at Change.org. To be honest, I fully expected my letter to go into the “oval file” so to speak. To my surprise it was published online within thirty minutes after the editor read it. Through them I met Mark Horvath, creator of Invisible People TV and We Are Visible, both of which are on Facebook. I am now the community manager on those sites, have been on a couple of radio shows, been written about in The Huffington Post and continue to talk to whoever wants to write about my experiences. I do this because homelessness is not the stereotypical “bum on the sidewalk” that most people think of whenever the subject comes up. Today a large portion of homeless people are single parents and families that lost their jobs and their homes. With the economy the way it is right now, the number of homeless people will increase so it is imperative that people see what’s really going on out here. We didn’t stop being human just because we lost our homes.
It is my hope that other people going through what I went through, am continuing to go through, will see that homelessness is a situation that can be dealt with in a positive way. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope!
I can be found at http://invisibull.wordpress.com, @Indyinnz on Twitter, Carey Fuller on Facebook, Indy on Blogher.com, or come visit us at We Are Visible and Invisible People TV also on Facebook.
Photo credit via Creative Commons 2.0: Alex E. Proimos