My wife and two kids and I are homeless right now. I am a disabled veteran who served in Afghanistan. I suffered multiple injuries and live with a lot of pain, but still go to work every day. My wife was working full time until she fell ill and was hospitalized. She had emergency surgery, but had a long recovery that kept her from work for over a month. All the driving to and from the hospital, in addition to driving for work, has put a strain on our car and our gas budget. I have had to have it repaired twice in the past month, and it still isn’t running right. I had to put the children in daycare while my wife was in the hospital and when she first came home. That was another expense we couldn’t afford. All the bills quickly overwhelmed us, and now we are living in a motel after being evicted. I know we can’t afford this motel for long, either. My wife is going back to work full time in a week. I’m afraid we will never catch up after all this.
Throughout the year, we provide assistance to families with children living in a motel or car. It is always a stressful and difficult time for all involved. Our goal is to get these family members in safe, affordable housing. That was the accomplished goal with this family.
I went to visit the father who had written this letter of request at the motel name and address he had provided. I knocked on the door and listened as I waited. I could hear someone inside, but I did not hear the children. In a moment, the door was opened and I introduced myself to the man inside. My first impression was he was a tall, tough-looking man, but when I introduced myself, he immediately turned his head to hide his tears. He finally said: “Oh, man, I can’t believe I am crying. I’ve just been so stressed out about my family living like this. Thank you for coming.”
We shook hands, and I said: “Don’t worry about it. I cry almost every day myself.” That seemed to ease his embarrassment, and he opened the door for me to come inside.
The man introduced me to his wife, who was resting in a chair. The husband told me she had just come home from work, and I could see she was clearly exhausted. She began to stand up, but I told her: “No, please, don’t get up. We can all just sit and talk.”
The husband pulled over the only other chair in the room for me to sit in while he sat on the end of the bed. I had planned my visit for when I assumed the children would be in school, and I was correct. The mother pulled up a few pictures of their children on her phone and showed them to me. They were smiling, even with the stress of living in a motel.
I commented on that, and the mother said: “Well, they always know they are loved. Even when I was in the hospital, I would call them before school, after school and before bed. It was so hard being separated for so long, and then knowing the financial predicament we were getting into made it even harder.”
I said, “Let’s talk about that financial predicament.”
I watched as the husband wiped his hand over his eyes and face. It was easy to see how this whole situation was affecting him. I could feel the stress from across the small room. I got the feeling he was again on the verge of tears as he said: “I served for five years in the military, and did multiple tours in Afghanistan. Even with all I’ve been through, I don’t think I cried once. It’s one thing putting myself in harm’s way and serving my country, but watching my kids and wife living in a motel room really has taken a toll on me.”
This time he put his hands over his face as he tried to hide the tears. I watched as his wife got up and walked over to put her hand on his back, trying to offer him comfort. She said: “This is not your fault. If it’s anyone’s, it’s mine for getting sick.”
The husband just shook his head no, and continued to cover his face.
Once the husband calmed down, I asked him about his service to our country. He had been injured once and returned, but the second time he was injured, he could not return to active duty. I noticed he walked with a slight limp as he went to a box stacked against the wall in the motel and proudly pulled out a photo of him and his commanding officer.
After sharing his emotional military history, we spoke about the wife’s illness and surgery. She had not been feeling well for days and had a lot of abdominal pain. By the time she finally went to the emergency room, she had suffered a ruptured appendix. This quickly escalated into a life-threatening infection that took over a month to recover from. The loss in pay and medical co-pays, in addition to the expensive car repairs and fuel the husband had used driving back and forth to Milwaukee, had overwhelmed their budget quickly.
The eviction happened, and before they knew it, they were spending the night in their car. They were lucky to have found the motel the following day, but with just the husband’s income, it was hard to even pay that along with food and gas, much less save up a security deposit and first month’s rent. They felt trapped and scared after the one night spent in their car with two small children.
I began to form a plan to help this family. I could see they were good, God-loving people, dedicated to their country and their family. How could we turn our back on this family in their time of need?
I began by calling a volunteer to pick up some food. They only had a mini-frig in their room, so I told the volunteer only to pick up a few items like cheese, lunch meat, milk, and snacks for the children, and bread. At least they could have sandwiches and snacks. The volunteer also offered to drop off a hot meal later in the day for the family dinner. I provided them with gas gift cards, as the mother was still requiring medical checkups, and they both drove for their jobs. I handed the husband gift cards for groceries and also gift cards for household necessities, as they had not been able to take all their belongings when they were evicted. The husband said, “We couldn’t afford a storage unit, so we lost most our furniture and large items.”
I then called a landlord I have worked with before to see if they had any rentals available. It is very difficult to find a rental once you have an eviction on your record. The landlord stated he had a two-bedroom apartment that was very reasonable available at the end of the week. He sent over some pictures, and I shared these with the husband and wife. They were both very excited and this time the wife began to cry as she said, “We could have a home again.”
After speaking with this husband and wife for just over an hour, I really wanted to find them a place to call home. I knew together we could remove their stress and desperation. I called the landlord back and told him, “They want the apartment.” The landlord and I went over the financial details, and when I ended the call, I told the husband and wife, “It is yours.” They were both overjoyed and hugged each other as they cried.
From the husband’s letter, I knew they also needed reliable transportation. After discussing the car with the husband, I made a call to our trusted car repair service and set up an appointment. The husband set up a time when he could wait for it when he was off work. I had a feeling our car repair men would be able to fix it, and if there was any doubt it was worth repairing, they would let me know.
We went over their budget and outstanding bills. The main assistance they needed was their security deposit and first month’s rent. This would give them the helping hand they needed out of poverty along with their reliable transportation. I also made a note to have new beds delivered once their lease was signed.
After our long emotional conversation, the wife was still fatigued, but now the look of fear was gone from her face and replaced by a smile. The removal of the strains of poverty was evident on her face. She looked years younger, and some of the color had even returned to her face. The husband no longer hid his tears behind his hand, and when I was saying goodbye, he shook my hand but then gave me a hug. He said: “With all your organization is doing for my family, I feel like I owe more than a hug. You can count me in as one of your volunteers any time you need me.”
The following week, the family was settled in their new apartment. It was small, but perfect for their needs. We provided three new beds and some used furniture to make it a home. The mother sent me pictures of their family, all smiling. Our assistance allowed this family to go from living in the fears and pains of poverty to smiles, removal of stress and a place to call home. Thank you for your support that allowed us to provide assistance to this veteran and his deserving family. God bless you.
Our hopes and prayers are that you will continue to take this opportunity to donate knowing every dollar of your donation will be matched by the amazing Barnabas donors, doubling your donations. As always every penny of this matching grant is already being used to provide poverty relief. Together we are doing the good works of our Lord helping our fellow creations, removing the pains of poverty. Together we have helped over 500 people each year, people suffering due to job loss, lack of transportation, illness and other tragedies of life that result in poverty. Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease the pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal