It was a quite a surprise to discover that the volunteer team leader for the night, Courtney, had once been a guest at HOPE. She was so grateful for the help she received from HOPE, that she led a team of coworkers to serve dinner at HOPE. While serving, she told the folks, “I was a guest here…”
They tell us that many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. So, we may know people, or be people, who are vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. Lately, about 32% of the guests at HOPE are experiencing homelessness for the first time. As we hear of large-company layoffs, we know that we need to be prepared for more people becoming vulnerable…
Courtney had worked several years for a major cellphone provider. She had worked her way up from sales to assistant manager and then to store manager. She had a strong, rising career.
Shortly after her company moved her to manage a store in Ohio, the father of her 7-year old daughter reemerged into their lives – he was suing for custody of his daughter.
This put in motion a series of events that would dramatically impact Courtney’s life. She presumed that the judge would rule in favor of a care-giving mother over an absentee father – the judge did not… She did not foresee that she would be ordered to share custody and bear the expense and time to transport her daughter to and from dad’s home.
It seemed that the best course of action would be to move back to Michigan. However, with no available store manager positions, this would be a temporary demotion and reduction in pay. But, it was temporary, so, they should be okay…
When Courtney relocated to Michigan, she kept the same cost of living she had had as a store manager – her car, loans, and the general things of life. Her bank account was quickly being depleted. Before long, she was having major financial problems.
She lost her apartment. She stayed with a friend for as long as she was able to pay her $100 a week; but when she could no longer do that, Courtney started sleeping in her car. Now, her daughter started staying with her dad all the time… The state said she made too much money to qualify for any aid; landlords said she did not make enough to qualify for an apartment.
Courtney slept in her car and showered at Planet Fitness each day while continuing to work. Trying to pay all of her bills was still dragging her down more each week. Her only choice was to declare bankruptcy – this proved to be a pivotal decision. Bankruptcy allowed her to get out of her high-priced vehicle and into a more affordable one. She was now able to save a couple of dollars.
She spent 11 days at HOPE. It gave her a safe place to sleep and someone to talk to about planning a way forward. She was able to save enough to get back into an apartment and to get her daughter back into her home.
In the year that has passed since Courtney was at HOPE, she has been promoted to assistant manager and then to store manager. It seems that she has her old life back… or is it different?
Courtney says the experience has given her a new outlook on life. She is more grateful; but also more cautious with her spending – she doesn’t take things for granted, anymore. She says, “I had let myself get a little too big for my britches.” She won’t let that happen, again.
When you think about the faces of people experiencing homelessness, it is important to note that there are no stereotypes. As we celebrate Christmas, let us all be grateful for what we have and a little more generous with those who lack.
People often include charitable giving in their Christmas celebration. Please remember HOPE and the work we do. We need your help. Any size gift means a lot to us. Please give.
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