Last week I was talking to my friend on the phone, and she told me the home she is renting is being condemned. When she told me her living conditions, I drove to her home to see if there was anything I could do to help. What I saw has kept me up at night ever since my visit. I have been so worried, and did not know what I could do for her until I thought of you. I cannot help her, as I care for my disabled husband full-time and live on a very tight budget. My friend is elderly. She has no living family left. She moved into the home she rents about eight years ago. It was in bad shape then, but over the years it has fallen apart even more. Her landlord keeps reducing the rent, but does not do any repairs. The roof has leaked for years and so has the plumbing. My friend told me that the home has been condemned, and she only has two weeks left until she has to get out. Someone called and complained about how bad the home looks, so the building inspector came out and said it was beyond repair. Mold is growing everywhere, and the smell is terrible. There is a gaping hole in the ceiling where the leak came through, causing all the drywall to fall down in her bedroom. There are broken windows and buckets under all the sinks. I still am in shock that this is how my friend has lived for the last few years and I did not know. She has not invited me over, always using the excuse that I am too busy caring for my husband. She was right, but now I know she was too embarrassed for me to see her house. I encouraged her to apply for housing assistance and other assistance, but there is a long waiting list. She does not have the time to wait. She needs a place to go that she can afford now. I would be so grateful if you could help my friend during this difficult time.
I have seen the elderly living in homes in this condition many times over the past 30 years of The Time Is Now to Help providing assistance. In every instance, the best option has been to move them to safer, healthier housing. Often they have lived like this for so long that it is hard for them to not only comprehend a move, but also physically and financially impossible to move. This leaves them in a very stressful state of fear and uncertainty.
There is no other organization I know of like The Time Is Now to Help that gives the guidance, the physical assistance and the financial assistance that lifts the burden of this type. The complexity of such a problem was taking its toll on this elderly woman. This elderly widow needed our experienced, heartfelt assistance to see her through this.
I called the concerned friend to get more details. She was extremely grateful at how quickly we had responded to her request for assistance for her dear friend. She told me about their long friendship and some of the difficulties her friend had endured. The loss of a child when she was in her 30s, the husband who had passed away when she was in her 40s, the struggle to work standing on her feet all day until retirement while needing both knees replaced, and then trying to afford living on Social Security while paying for prescriptions, car repairs and life in a disintegrating home.
It was clear the elderly woman she hoped we would provide assistance for had not lived an easy life. I asked about the friend’s ability to live on her own, and the woman said: “She has the mind and ability of a woman half her age. I wish I could be that independent.”
That was what I was hoping for, as it meant the woman could continue to live on her own, just in a better environment. The woman added: “There is no one else I know that is as deserving of help as my friend. She is such a good person. She has no idea I wrote a letter to you. When you call her, it will be a surprise.”
We ended our phone conversation with tears of gratitude from the woman.
I called the friend next, and after a moment of confusion when I introduced myself, she realized who was on the phone. I then heard the woman begin to cry. I told her a friend had written to us in her behalf, and she immediately said the friend’s name, knowing who would do this for her. The woman said: “Oh, she was so upset when she saw the house I’m renting. She and the building inspector told me I need to move out right away, but I have nowhere to go.”
I answered her: “Well, that is why I am calling. I want to see if we can help you through this.” The woman asked: “You can help me? I haven’t had anyone help me in years.”
I began to tell her about The Time Is Now to Help, but I did not need to, as she had read our column. I asked the woman, “Why didn’t you write me a letter yourself?” She answered: “I never thought of myself as being like one of the poor people you write about. Now that I think about it, I should have written you a letter a while ago. I have known I have to get out of this house for a long time, but I did not know how I could do this on my own. It’s all so overwhelming and scary.”
I asked about the situation with her landlord, and it was clear he was not interested in doing any remodeling on the home. He had just hung onto it as an investment for years, but did not have the money to keep up with it.
As she told me she had read our column for years, she seemed to know the questions I would ask. We went over her budget, and I could see it was very tight, even with the reduced rent. I made some suggestions on expenses she could reduce or eliminate. The woman confessed to having too many years of collecting things stuffed into her home. I am very familiar with this, with some of our loneliest fellow creations. They keep every little item that may have a memory attached to it. It is very hard for them to let these items go as they move into smaller apartments. As I made a list of assistance for this senior woman, I knew we would need caring volunteers to help her through this as well.
The woman asked if I would be coming over to see where she was living. I told her I was not able to come over, but I would like to send over our volunteers who have experience in this kind of assistance. She was embarrassed to have strangers come to her home, but agreed it would be necessary, as I was out of town and she needed help right away. I had to make a few phone calls to see what arrangements I could help this elderly woman with. I told her I would call her back after hearing from the volunteers. After hanging up with the woman, I made my next call to the volunteers that I knew would be perfect for this home check. They agreed to go later that day, and would give me a report then.
While waiting for their report, I made some inquiries into rentals for the elderly woman. When the volunteers called me back, they were very concerned. They said: “I had no idea how bad this was going to be. We need to help this woman now. I talked to a friend of mine, and they told me about a first-floor rental in an apartment building, but I’m not sure if she can afford the rent.”
When he told me the price and the landlord’s name, I made a call to see if we could secure the apartment. After speaking to the landlord and he heard about the woman’s age and living conditions, he agreed to an even more affordable rent. I had the volunteer bring an application over for the woman to fill out, and once that would be completed we could begin to plan her move. This apartment would give her a safe clean living environment. She would no longer be living with buckets, mold and leaks.
The volunteers brought over boxes for the elderly woman so she could begin to pack only the belongings she would need in her new smaller apartment. The volunteers counseled her on what items to pack and what she no longer needed. This is not always an easy task, but this is something they are very good at. Even with the volunteers helping, every time they came over she had a box or two of items to throw out or give away. Over the course of a few days, her items were all packed and carried to her new apartment. Most of her furniture was too worn or moldy to move, so these were left behind and replaced by some good donated furniture. A new bed also was delivered to give her sometimes-aching back and knees a comfortable place to rest.
Now that the elderly woman has moved, she is doing much better. She never even realized how detrimental her living conditions had been to her health. The mold she had been breathing had been causing endless allergy symptoms and headaches that she no longer suffers from. She also does not have the financial stress of being over-extended each month. The budget we put together has allowed her to eat healthier.
Now that she is not spending all her time emptying buckets and drying wet floors, she can enjoy time with her friend and just give her friend some support, as the friend cares for her disabled husband around the clock. The last time I spoke to the woman she said: “I had no idea how bad things were for me. Thank God my dearest friend came by to see how I was living, and then your wonderful volunteers to help me get rid of years of stuff I didn’t need and help me move.”
At that moment the elderly woman stopped talking and I heard her break down in tears. She was trying to talk, but her voice kept breaking. Her voice shook as she finally said: “I can’t believe I’m finally out of that house and all of you have given me my life back. The constant fear I was living in is gone. How can I ever repay all of you?”
I answered: “Just pray for all the people that still need our help and that they, too, have a good friend like yours that cares enough to get them help.” Her answer was, “I have been, ever since we first spoke.”
Please donate to our matching grant opportunity, the 2019 Barnabas $88,420 Matching Grant. Again Barnabas has come to us inspired to help many fellow creations living in poverty. We are so excited for this matching grant and the poverty relief it is already providing. Our hopes and prayers are that you will 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 will be 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