My best friend is a wonderful mother to three young children. Her husband of 10 years left her a year ago. He had lost his job after he began drinking heavily. He has not paid any of the child support he was ordered to pay, as he still is unemployed. He actually has a warrant out for his arrest, but they have not been able to find him. My friend has been left with all the financial and parental responsibilities. Her home is now in foreclosure, and she has to be out in 30 days. She is working full-time, but does not earn enough to pay all the expenses for her home on her own. She earns just enough to feed her children, pay the utilities and make her car payment. She needs to move into a much smaller home or apartment so she does not have to pay so much for upkeep, but she does not know where she will come up with the money for both first month’s rent and a security deposit. I wish I could help her, but being a single mother myself, I just get by each month. I hope you can help my friend, as I know she is very distressed over her situation and worries constantly about where they will be able to move.
We help several single mothers each month. Just last week I was reviewing a budget with a single mother who had four children. I could not believe it when I saw she only received $10 a week per child. Who can feed, clothe, shelter and provide medical care for a child for a full week on only $10? I continue to run into this problem of inadequate child support, and also fathers who are not paying any child support, with many single mothers and children living in poverty.
I called the single mother, as the friend had included all her contact information in the letter. She was confused at first about who was calling, but as soon as I mentioned her friend’s name and told her this friend had written a letter to our charity requesting assistance, she understood why I was calling. She said: “You must be the charity that my friend has been encouraging me to write to for the past few months. I was too embarrassed to write a letter myself, so she must have done it without telling me.”
I confirmed that I was from the charity her friend had told her about. I read her the letter over the phone and then asked, “Is this an accurate depiction of what you are going through?” She hesitated before answering, “Yes.” I told her about The Time Is Now to Help and how we provide our assistance. I asked, “Do you feel you could be helped in your situation by our assistance?” She began to cry and said, “Yes, please.”
The next day, I arrived at the address of the single mother and children. While the home looked clean, it was definitely in need of some upkeep. It was a bigger home than I usually visit, but it was old and with the leaks I was noting on the ceiling and under the windows, I knew the utility bills must have been very high, in addition to the mold that was probably lurking in the walls. The rooms were nearly empty of furniture; in fact, the children had set up tents under blankets in the middle of the living room. I noticed baby gates by the stairs and soon met the toddler, who turned out to be the woman’s youngest child. She looked to be only about a year old and hid behind her mother.
I did the math and realized the woman’s husband must have left her either while she was pregnant or right after the baby was born.
The friend’s older daughter was there also, and she watched the children so we could speak without them listening. While they continued to play in the empty living room, we went to the kitchen to continue our conversation. I knew our time was limited before one of the children would need her, so we got right to work. I looked around the kitchen while she collected her documents needed to review her budget. The kitchen was clean, and there was a small amount of food in the refrigerator. The children were not hungry, but they also were not eating much nutritious food from what I could see. I made a note to provide some grocery gift cards to supplement their diet. We then sat down to talk.
I asked the mother about her husband, and she filled me in on what the friend had already shared with me. He had been drinking and lost his job. She had not heard from him for over nine months now. He made no attempts to visit the children. She told me how he had not been a caring father for the past two years, as his drinking had increased.
The mother filled me in on her struggle for the first few months after he left, when she did everything she could to pay the mortgage payment she could not afford. She told me how she had gone to the food pantry or they would have gone hungry. She quickly realized she could not keep up with the mortgage, so instead had tried to keep up with the utilities and her car payments. When the house fell into foreclosure, she thought she would have more time before she had to evacuate, but it went quickly. I told the mother, “Let’s go over your expenses and income, and work out an amount that you can safely afford for rent each month.”
We went through the budget line by line, and after some suggestions we came up with an amount for rent. She would need an apartment that was very reasonable, to keep them from falling behind each month. She could never afford a security deposit in addition to first month’s rent, so I made a note to provide these, along with an additional month’s rent. I asked the mother if she had looked for apartments in that price category, and she pulled out a paper with two apartments that would be suitable. They both were much closer to her job, which would save her travel time and gas and also be much closer to her friend who along with her daughter helped with the children when needed. The mother shared how she had talked to the landlord at both buildings, and only one was willing to rent to her as long as she had a referral. I offered to provide that referral, and told her I would call the landlord. She asked, “You will?” I said, “Of course. I will call right now.”
I called the landlord and after a discussion of how we would be helping this mother get established, he was willing to rent her the apartment. It was a two-bedroom plus a small den that the baby could use as her own room. What was even better was that it would be available in three weeks, just in time before they would be evicted. When the landlord and I ended the call, both the women were anxious to hear what the outcome was. I filled them in on what they had not heard, and both women burst into tears this time.
I knew there were a few more things we needed to go over before I left. I asked to see her car, as I noted her car payment was late. We went outside, and I found her car to be in fair shape. It had not had service in over a year, so I set it up for an oil change and whatever else may be needed to make sure they had safe transportation. I made a note to provide one car payment in addition to the rent, to be sure she did not lose her much-needed car. I also gave the mother some gift cards for gas along with the grocery gift cards. The two women again were hugging each other and crying. I could tell this friend had been a big support during the tough year this single mother had been through. When I mentioned this, they both said: “We have been best friends since we were kids. We have shared all of our good times and our bad times together.”
I was happy to hear this, as so many people we help do not have anyone they can turn to, even if just for emotional support.
Just then, the children came running into the room with their baby sitter in tow. The baby ran to her mother to be held, and the boys were looking for something to eat. I knew it was time to leave this busy working single mother to care for her family while I had work to do getting together the rest of her assistance. The women said a tearful goodbye as they said over and over again, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Three weeks later, I followed up with the single mother to see how her move went. She sounded years younger on the phone as she said: “I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to finally be moved out of that old drafty expensive house. I can now sleep at night, the first time in almost a year.”
She also shared her surprise when I had made arrangements for her to choose some used furniture from a charity store close to her apartment. Now that they were settled, she said their lives were very much improved. She even had an extra hour in her day since her job was much closer. Again she said: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That’s for you and all those people that help you so you could help me.”
I laughed and said, “I will be sure to share that with everyone.”
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