February is Heart Month, and we are highlighting some of the amazing individuals at the heart of our services. We want to introduce you to Carole, an amazing individual who has recently graduated from the Housing Support Program. We hope you find her journey inspiring, and that her words might help instigate needed change. We certainly think that she is an inspiration! The following is her story, shared with us in a recent interview.
Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 went down on record as being the wettest tropical cyclone and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. A huge portion of this devastation took place in Houston Texas, where thousands of families were instantly displaced from their homes due to extreme flooding, losing everything they owned. One such family was the Bowden family. Timothy and Jazmin and their two young daughters Vanessa and Liliana had no idea what was coming their way as they prepared to weather the incoming storm.
Homelessness in San Luis Obispo County is a very real problem. SLO County recently published a study (read it here) on the root causes of homelessness in SLO County, confirming it is one of the biggest issues impacting our community. The census, conducted in January 2017, found that there were 1,125 homeless persons in SLO County. Many state that the root cause is that there aren’t enough vacant rental units available. This report can be summed up in their statement that, “Insufficient supply of housing continues to be the biggest barrier to eliminating homelessness in the County.”
About ten years ago, my husband Doug introduced me to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), specifically the island of Tortola. Doug has spent half of his life going to the BVI and befriending many local people on Tortola. Our local friends who call this small island home are intelligent, wonderful, fun, passionate and so incredibly special to both of us. It is hard to explain how much we love the BVI and how much we love its people. We have always felt so fortunate to share a part of our lives with them.
A week or so before Christmas, my wife decided to hire a cleaning service to help get prepared for several large gatherings and family coming to stay from out of town. The company she used was very reputable and had great referrals. During the period of time the cleaners were at work, my wife engaged one of them in conversation and what she learned was quite disturbing. This lady has two children, the oldest being 11, and was basically homeless. She indicated they spent most nights in the homeless shelter and couch surfed whenever they could. Sometimes they had to sleep in their car. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do for Christmas, where they would be or how to get gifts for her kids. Financially, she receives a fairly decent wage, but is being paid under the table. Consequently, she has no pay receipts needed to obtain housing. The lady indicated that she did not want to quit because well-paying jobs are scarce in our area and she felt she could not take care of her family on minimum wage. She is a citizen and is not, does she want to be, on public assistance. In this day and age, situations like this is are far too common. As the gap continues to grow between the rich and poor, and the middle class erodes away, we are losing one of the essentials of life – the ability for everyday folks to have a place to call HOME!