I never thought I would be homeless. But I was, and so were my children.
After I made the decision to close the daycare I had to take a long hard look at my finances. Then, in the subsequent months after that, I got the news that the debilitating pain I had been living with for years (and that was getting increasingly worse) was not ever going to get better and that I could expect a loss of mobility as well.
Knowing that my way of supporting my kids was gone and not knowing when I would ever be able to do what I do again, I enrolled in the housing assistance program. There were some bumps getting acclimated to the program and I felt bad every single time I had to go down to the office, but my kids had a place to live and that was all that mattered. Over the next couple years my landlord outright stopped making any kind of repairs or doing any maintenance on the house. She got her portion of rent from me, the remainder from housing and she went M.I.A, unless the rent was late. If the rent didn’t hit her account on the first, no later than the third, she would text and e-mail me to call them and find out where her money was. When she could be bothered to respond to any issues about the house she would always tell me the issue had to be “tenant problem” and I would have to pay for any repairs. When you are on housing they do yearly inspections. The reason is twofold, 1 is that they want to make sure landlords are maintaining their properties and 2; they want to ensure the tenants are not damaging the property in any way. These inspections cover the gamut from structural to housekeeping/cleanliness. If there is an issue they notify the tenant and the owner and specify who is responsible to make the repair or correction. My landlord would email me every time she got a notice, “Martha, take care of all repairs on the list. All repairs are tenant problem no matter what housing say” and, because I had no money to move, I would take from my family and make these repairs regardless of the cost.
Now, when I say repairs I don’t mean anything we did to the house I mean shit like the linoleum curling away from the side of the tub because it wasn’t flush with the bottom but actually curved up onto the actual tub. Or the lovely caulking the owner used to fill in the space between the fake wood floor and the tiled kitchen floor. Mind you this was a 1,700 sq. foot house on a 6,000 ft. lot. This wasn’t a rinky dink little place tucked away in a rundown section of town, it was a nice sized house in a very nice neighborhood. They painted the house so that it looked beautiful from the street, but when you came inside you could see it was a patchwork quilt of mismatched crap. I rented the house from them a month after they closed escrow. They slapped some paint on the walls and posted it for rent. When I initially moved in I was in heaven, this big ole house, with all this room for daycare littles and my kids to peacefully coexist. I realized very quickly that I had rented my own version of the Money Pit (without the funny antics of Tom Hanks to make it freaking bearable) I didn’t mind at first, because I had money coming in and soon, it felt like home. It looked good and felt good. And then the façade started to slip and I began to see issues that had been covered cosmetically but need addressing for the house to be safe and livable.
I had my yearly inspection in March. The inspector joked with me and teased the Grand like he had the year before, but he looked worried. When he was done he said, “your landlord has some work to do. They need to do some preventative maintenance and fix a couple things. You passed, but they did not. I will send them a letter.” I walked around with a burning hole in my stomach all day, waiting for her e-mail asking how the inspection went. When she reached out I told her he said there were a couple minor things he said needed addressing and he would send a letter. Her response was “why you not have the house ready when he come? You fix it yourself or you move.” Like I was, once again, take care of issues I had been telling her about for years. So, when, my housing worker called me about the letter I told him what she said. He said that I would have to move. He sent her an amended letter stating that the owner is/was responsible for things marked owner and so on. And that if the agency found out the tenant was making owner repairs; both the tenant and owner could lose their contract. I received an email a few days later telling me they would like me to move in 30 days. A house I had been in for over 5 years and, somehow I was supposed to find another place in 30 days.