I was given your information by a good friend you helped a few years ago. I told her about some trouble I am having since I became sick three months ago. I am 73 years old, but I was still working part-time to help supplement my social security income. With the extra prescriptions and loss of income from my job, I have fallen behind in my bills. It is not easy to ask for help, but I fear if I don’t, I will end up homeless.
My savings are already used up. I am too sick to return to work yet. My friend helped me apply for housing assistance and utility assistance, but there is a long wait. She also drove me to the food pantry so I did not go hungry. I know I need to move out of the apartment I am renting, so I am hopeful my housing assistance will be approved soon. I don’t know how long I can live here before I lose everything.
Right now in our country, there is an epidemic of homelessness for senior citizens. Most affordable housing complexes have a one- to two-year waiting list. It is very difficult to find housing that does not take over half your income. Most senior citizens I find living in this situation are truly struggling. If they do not have a savings to take from each month or a job to supplement their income, they will skip meals, medications and dentist visits to prevent homelessness. I knew the time to help this senior woman was now.
While I drove to the senior woman’s apartment, I thought about the many senior citizens we have been helping this year. So many were over 70 years old, and struggling to not only pay bills, but also to eat and keep their lights on and use their air-conditioning or heat.
I remembered back to one of the first homeless senior citizens I helped over 30 years ago — a woman who was caring for her grandchild while living on a park bench and sleeping in a woman’s shelter at night. I was horrified at the time, and of course I provided assistance. Unfortunately I soon found out she was not a rarity; it was very common for me to find homeless seniors or seniors living in terrible conditions due to their poverty. Still, to this day, I continue to work hard to make sure every senior citizen I find living in poverty is given the assistance they need to live without hunger or suffering.
When I arrived at the senior woman’s apartment, I called the house phone, and once the woman heard it was me on the phone, she pressed the door opener. I had never been to this apartment building before, and found it to be in good condition. I noted the stairs I had to climb to the second floor, and knew these probably were or eventually would be a problem. I still did not know what sickness the woman was suffering from.
The door was open, and a woman was standing in the doorway. She looked embarrassed as she patted her nearly bald head and said: “I wasn’t expecting company. Please excuse my appearance.”
I said: “You look perfectly fine. I did not want to waste any time, so I came right over after reading your letter.”
She answered: “Thank you for that. Please come in.”
I entered the apartment and took a look around. The senior woman gave me a short tour. It was easy to see she was not feeling her best. I asked if she would like me to come back another time, but she told me she was well enough for my visit. She offered me a cup of green tea, and we talked while she made one for herself. We sat to talk some more while she sipped her tea. I could tell she was fighting fatigue and possibly nausea. She finally admitted to me that she was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, and had just had a treatment a few days prior. She said: “The worst is behind me right now. I am doing much better than I was. If you would have come over just two days ago, I probably would not have even been able to answer the door.”
Not wanting to tire her even more, I dove right in to talking with her about her budget. She told me her husband had left her when she was in her 50s, and she had worked full-time until just last year, when she began to feel tired all the time. Her small savings had gone quickly once she had been unable to work full-time any longer. She showed me her bank statements and bills. I saw where she carefully watched every penny she spent. There just was not enough income to afford the apartment she was living in, along with the expense of a car, insurance, food, utilities and prescription medications.
The woman said: “God forbid I need to see a dentist, need a new prescription or need my prescription eye drops. That is where my savings has gone, on top of my rent being raised and utilities going up.”
Looking over her budget, I could see the increase in all her expenses over the last two years.
The senior woman told me about her son who lived out of state and her daughter who lived in Chicago. The daughter seemed to be struggling with her own emotional and financial problems, from what the woman told me. The senior woman said: “My daughter is not much help to me. She has struggled with some mental health issues since she was a teenager. She has all she can handle just taking care of herself right now. And my son has a wife and three children to take care of.”
I asked about any friends or relatives who could help her. She told me about her dear friend who we helped three years ago.
“You changed her life,” she said. “She was living in poverty until you helped her get back on her feet. You also helped her get into an apartment she can afford, and she still lives there. I would like to move there, too, but there is a waiting list.”
The woman told me how she drove her to her treatments and even went to cancer support group and church group meetings with her. She said: “Thank God she is here to help me. She brings me food when she can. She is such a help.”
I was relieved to hear she had a support system as she went through her difficult cancer treatments. Without a support system, these can be even more challenging to get through. The senior woman told me about going through times when she was hungry, and her overwhelming fear of homelessness. Looking at her overdue bills I could understand why she was in fear. Her utilities were on the verge of disconnection, and I was surprised her landlord hadn’t actually given her an eviction notice yet.
She shared with me how he had come to her door and when he had seen the condition she was in, all he had done was hand her the late rent notice and walked away. She then told me how ashamed she was to not be able to pay her rent, to who she knew was a kind and good landlord. I reached over and grabbed her hand, telling her not to worry, that we would bring her rent up to date, but she must find an apartment that is more reasonable.
In all honesty, her rent was not unreasonable, but it was more than she could afford without working. The senior woman told me about her difficulty in even finding this apartment, as there was a limited amount of apartments available that were affordable.
I asked the woman what she needed right now besides her rent and utilities being brought up to date. She told me about her inability to buy certain personal toiletry items, and also her need for special foods while going through her chemotherapy. She said, “My tastes have changed, and I am trying to eat healthy, but I do not have much of an appetite.”
I told her how my own sister was a breast cancer survivor, and how she, too, had struggled to eat when she had been going through chemotherapy. I shared with her that my sister’s secret had been smoothies with supplements added. It had literally saved her life when she had not been able to eat for days on end. I told her I would have a volunteer drop off the ingredients for smoothies if she thought she would like them. She smiled and answered, “I would love to try them.”
It was the first smile I had seen since my arrival.
The woman was beginning to tire, and she told me that, too, was a side effect of her treatments. I handed her a list of the assistance we would be providing and she read it over. When she looked up, she had tears in her eyes. She finally said: “Now I know why my friend kept telling me to write to The Time Is Now to Help. I had no idea you would be helping this much. I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless while I continue to recover. I want to go back to work eventually, but until then, I won’t have to worry all the time. This means more to me than I could ever express.”
While the woman continued to look at the list in disbelief, and wiped away her tears, I told her about all of you and your part in everything our charity does. She listened attentively and then said: “Please thank all those generous people for me. Let them know how much helping a nearly homeless senior citizen means to her. I could not have gotten through this without all of your help.”
As I collected my things, I promised her I would let all of you know the impact you had on her life.
The following day, a volunteer dropped off toiletries, a blender, supplements, frozen fruits, fresh vegetables, and gift cards to purchase anything else she may need. She also received rent checks to pay her overdue rent and two months into the future to give her time to recuperate and hopefully find a more reasonable apartment. Her utilities were also brought up to date and paid into the future. Gas gift cards were provided so she could get to her medical appointments and grocery shopping.
The following day, I received a phone call from the woman, and I could hear she was crying. I was concerned and asked if everything was okay. She answered: “Everything is better than okay. I just feel like I didn’t thank you properly the other day. I was so overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s hard for me to express how thankful I am.”
I said: “The only thanks we need is for you to rest and get well and follow the advice I gave you.”
She answered, “You can tell all those supporters that is exactly what I plan on doing.”
Two months later, I located an apartment that would be perfect for this woman. I called and asked if she was feeling well enough to go see it with me. I was happy to hear that she was feeling much better, and she wanted to go see it. We found a freshly painted and cleaned first-floor apartment that she could afford without having to work if she did not want to. With the help of volunteers and her dear friend, she was moved and is now settled in her new apartment, thanks to all of you.
Every day we receive requests for our assistance. In many communities there is no or little assistance for those living in the pains of poverty. People of every age are suffering in silence as they live without proper shelter, food, utilities and other daily necessities. Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease these pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal
Please help: There are many coming to us in desperation. Our good fellow creations need our compassion. Together we make a big difference. Make checks payable to: The Time Is Now to Help, P.O. Box 1, Lake Geneva, WI 53147. The Time Is Now to Help is a federally recognized 501©3 charitable organization licensed in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. You will receive a tax deductible, itemized thank you receipt showing how your donation provided assistance for the poverty stricken.
A very special thank you: Barnabas Donors, Rhoades Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, Paul Ziegler, Ziegler Charitable Foundation, Kunes Country Auto Group, Kune’s Family Foundation, Lake Geneva Area Realty, The Harold and Bernice De Weerd Family Foundation, The Premium Package, The Dan & Donna Casey Family Charitable Fund, Dick and Jean Honeyager, William Wright, The Sowers House, Michael Glass, Gregory Swanson, Jeanne Allen, Phil Allen, Karin Slayton, Donald Bailey, William Davit, Gregory Ray, William Norton, Paula Harris, Duane DeYoung, Karin Collamore, Kristina Thelen and Richard Green.
Memorials: Sally Rayner in memory of her husband Lawrence Rayner Jr. The following donations were given in memory of Marilynn Dyer: Grace Hanny, John and Jacqueline Huml, Cynthia Deacon, Edith Hanzel, and the Herman Agency.
Prayer chain: The power of prayer and positive thoughts comes from the true healer, our Lord answering our prayers. Please pray for healing for the following people: Talyn, Mike, Susan, Sylvia, Richard, Jennifer, Jayden, Maria C., Alex, Lily, Kaitlyn, Sheila, Rhonda, Deda Lee, Marilyn, Helen, Dennis, Mary, Joseph, Sal, Jordan, Jean, Tom L., Arabelle J., Dr. Peter and Alyce.
Please visit: www.timeisnowtohelp.org