by Dawn Adkins
In these times when so many folks have experienced financial difficulties during the COVID pandemic and now struggle to make ends meet in an economy of high prices, low incomes, and a severe shortage of affordable housing, the stories we hear at the FaithWorks office are sometimes grim. We have, however, been encouraged by the successes of some of our resilient and resourceful clients in the past few months.
When we first connected with R, he and his family of four and their two dogs were living in their truck. After the windows in the apartment above them were shot out they left their unsafe neighborhood and began sleeping in their truck. This was not the best choice but they felt at risk remaining in their apartment and they were determined that this be only a short term solution. When R called the FaithWorks office, three out of four of his family members were working and they had some money saved up for an apartment from their wages. R’s wife had a good lead on an affordable apartment but it would take at least a couple weeks or more of paychecks before they had enough to move in. R asked us to put them up in a motel for a few nights and since they had a feasible plan to save up their money, we met their request. After paying for four nights, R and his wife were able to put a deposit down on the apartment and pay for the motel room on their own while they saved up the first month’s rent. R called us on payday and triumphantly announced that they had signed the lease. They had their own place once again.
D called in desperation and grief. She and her husband had fallen months behind on their rent when their inability to work during the pandemic made it impossible for them to keep up with their bills. They had secured assistance from RentHelpNM to help them catch up on their rent but then D’s husband died unexpectedly reducing D’s income to her monthly check which was not enough to pay the rent moving forward. Even though her rent was paid in advance, her landlord wanted her out and threatened to evict her. When she called FaithWorks she had found an apartment she would be able to afford on her own but she needed help with move-in expenses. At first, D was expecting to receive a refund from her current landlord that would enable her to pay her first month’s rent so she asked if FaithWorks could help with the security deposit. FaithWorks paid it for her. Then, the refund fell through and D needed to pull together all of the first month’s rent. FaithWorks staff worked with her, brainstorming possible solutions, but when the landlord served her with an eviction notice and she got a court date, the situation became more urgent. FaithWorks suggested a plan to D: if she could come up with about half the rent, FaithWorks would pay the rest. Immediately, D started to search for ways to get the money together. She placed online ads to sell some of her furniture. She took on an odd job and then she found several days of work with a day labor company. The day before her court date, D and FaithWorks staff met at the office of her new apartment complex and paid her first month’s rent. D walked away with her keys. She was really grateful for FaithWorks' contribution to her rent payment, but it was her grit and perseverance that made her move to a new and more affordable apartment actually happen.
E called FaithWorks because her water had been shut off. E is the caregiver for her young grandchild. Normally, E manages their tight budget on her fixed income with no issues but after the recent death of her son she had to pay for funeral expenses and she came up short. FaithWorks was able to get her water back on and felt sure that E will be managing well soon.
These are but a few of the folks we’ve had the chance to talk with and walk with for a short time. The needs are great and it is both humbling and a privilege to be able to share the resources made available through the kindness and generosity of those who support the mission of FaithWorks as well as the funds received through grants. We strive to assist folks with short motel stays when they are close to getting into stable housing and to help out with utility bills or overdue rent to prevent evictions. The systems in place to support the unhoused and the precariously housed in our community are difficult to navigate and the immensity of need is sometimes overwhelming. There is no simple solution to the very complicated problem of homelessness but there is shared gratitude in making the effort to focus on one client at a time and sharing a brief moment of relief and joy with folks like R and his family, D, and E and her grandchild overcome obstacles and gain a more healthy state of being.