I’m considering widening my focus on raising money for Immigrant Families, which I’ve been doing since early April of 2020 when covid struck. I heard that immigrant families could no longer work, that undocumented families got no income at all (including help from the government), and I started buying food cards for them.
Jimena continues to send me shut-off notices like the one above and we come up with the $528 to help the family not lose electricity, especially as the weather here gets cold. I heard yesterday that electricity bills are projected to go up 100% here this winter. It’s going to get colder, the farms will close, and Jimena will probably send me copies of more eviction notices and utility threats as winter advances.
While I keep a very precise bookkeeping of monies coming in and out, usually into a separate PayPal account that is tied to a separate bank account, I don’t have the time right now to start adding everything up. I remember that in that first year we raised close to $50,000. We raised less after that, but if you add the Christmas gifts for immigrant children and the back-to-school supplies in the early fall, it comes to a very substantial amount. Speaking of back-to-school supplies, thank you very much for buying the extra supplies that I’d posted 5 days ago. I believe that list sold out in less than 36 hours.
But now, after covid, the stories of families needing help is not just an immigrant story (it was my family’s story) or limited to undocumented families. My housemate, Lori, supports low-income families of all kinds dealing with poverty. It’s safe to say that many of those are single-parent households, usually a mother and sometimes a father.
When we walk with Aussie and Henry on weekend mornings (on weekdays she works out of the house visiting those families), she tells me about her new clients and what they face. She never mentions names, but I hear heartbreaking stories about the struggle of single parents to provide a roof over their children’s heads, find work, not yield to isolation, and avoid the lures of alcohol and drugs while scratching up some kind of life for themselves and their families. Even when they get help from government agencies, they get caught amidst rules and regulations that undermine their success.
A week ago I heard about a mother with four children who was just approved for Section 8 housing. Section 8 housing is a federal (HUD) program providing vouchers to help low0income families pay rent. Most landlords don’t accept Section 8; the apartments that do are in low-income areas and are as far from luxury apartments as you can imagine. People who get Section 8 vouchers in this state are required to also find work, not easy when there are little children at home.
Lydia (not her real name) has 4 children, two of whom are below the age of 3 (one is an infant). On the threshold of homelessness, she was thrilled to be approved for Section 8 housing. The challenge was to find a landlord who accepts that, of which there are few and all have long waiting lists. Laura found an apartment, only to discover that, of course, she needed first month, last month, and security, totaling three months’ rent. Section 8 has a program advancing this to low-income families, but the rules are that you have to show a rental contract in order to get the advance, which could take time. A bigger problem is that not too many landlords are ready to provide such a rental contract and then have to wait to get the three months’ rent, especially when there are so many on the waiting list.
Lydia had no money for the landlord to hold the apartment, and lost it.
If you are worried about welfare cheats eating steak and oysters at taxpayers’ expense, step into the labyrinth of government regulations and watch yourself losing strength, resolve, and stamina. Forget about steak and oysters, how about a roof over 4 children’s heads? The frustration was palpable as Lori spoke. How is Lydia going to get herself out of the situation she and her children are in now? She’s approved for low-cost housing, but the regulations are such that make it almost impossible to succeed.
When she said this, I thought about the account I keep for immigrant families. I checked it back home and said to Lori: “I can’t cover everything, but if an amount in the range of $2,500-$3,000 can help, we’ll do that. Tell her to look for the apartment and if she finds something, she could at least offer that amount to hold the apartment till she gets the money covering 3 months’ rent from Boston.”
This woman is not an illegal immigrant, she works hard to create a home for her family, but failure lurks behind every corner, her kids can be taken away from her, and the very programs meant to help her make success almost impossible.
There’s little affordable housing here; what there is, is still expensive (this is true around the country). So what if she was born in this country and is not an immigrant? Poverty doesn’t discriminate based on skin color or country of origin. I, for one, believe that the biggest issue we face in this country, bigger than racism, is the class system and wealth disparity we live with.
So far, I haven’t given that money because the Lydia hasn’t found another apartment yet; she’s aware that when she does, she can count on our offer. But since that and future monies are slated to go to Immigrant families, and especially undocumented ones, I feel it’s only right to put out the thought that it’s time to widen our circle of giving to include anyone in dire need, regardless of where they were born. I’m still mulling this over.
There are a lot of people struggling out there, but there’s the wealth of the universe, as I saw when the back-to-school list sold out so quickly. Finding my way.
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