“Through the struggle, I saw times that were very dark and I couldn’t even see myself in what lied ahead the next day, but my I knew my kids deserved more, and that is where Community of Hope came to the rescue”
A true Floridian, Sarah* grew up in Northern Brevard raised by her father. The activities she witnessed by day and the sounds that haunted the darkness at night, lying in bed as a child, left her all too familiar with the dark side of society. As she grew and eventually became a mother herself, she would have flashbacks to her childhood and promised herself that her kids wouldn’t live with the same fear and uncertainty that she had.
However things often don’t happen the way we plan them and there were curveballs that she never expected. Life had been challenging at times, but the beginning of 2020 saw her family struggling. They were already barely surviving on her full time income alone. Covid-19 meant reduced hours, income, and the loss of child support payments just as her lease was ending and rent was set to increase. After doing the math, she realized there wouldn’t be enough make ends meet. Desperate times called for desperate measures as their housing held on by a thin thread. She had lost all hope and fell more and more behind until it seemed there were no other options.
Knowing that it would buy her a little time to help pay her rent, Sarah got involved with the dark circles she knew from her childhood and while it worked for a short time, it also resulted in criminal charges. Soon after, the thread finally broke and she was served an eviction. Her worst fear had come true: her family was experiencing the same fear and uncertainty that she had as a child. Panic stricken, Sarah couldn’t believe that she’d broken the promise she’d made to herself so long before. With no money saved, even motels were not an option.
She began to make calls on her own, trying to find a new place to live but came up empty handed each time. She wondered how, with a recent eviction and now criminal charges on her record, any future landlord would consider her family. A co-worker told Sarah about 2-1-1 Brevard. Sarah immediately reached out to the referral service and they sent her information was sent to Community of Hope’s case manager, Nicole.
Nicole reached out immediately to Sarah to assess her situation and soon learned how dire it had become. She and her four children, including a newborn, was living in a friend’s shed. A 12×12 garden shed lined with lawn equipment and gallons of paint. They had an outside spigot was used to wash up and with no way to cook food, the local Jiffy Mart was their source of food. For four months, this had been their world.
Though there were no immediate openings in the Safe Overnight Stay (SOS) program, which would provide emergency housing, Nicole stayed connected with Sarah and together they began to lay the groundwork from when an opportunity would arise. They started with obtaining documentation to acquire public aid, like insurance and SNAP benefits, then ordered official copies of birth certificates for the children and obtaining childcare. One week later, an SOS housing unit became available and the family, for the first time, were all under one safe roof.
Time pressed, the toughest challenges were ahead. Brevard County has very little in the way of affordable housing and the family had a lot of barriers to being eligible due to their history. Nicole made contact with a private landlady in northern Brevard. Understandably, they were very hesitant to take on the risk of a tenant who had an evection and pending court case on their record. However, Nicole explained our work at Community of Hope to them, and that Nicole would be following up with Sarah and her family as part of their support system if they were approved for housing. Knowing that Sarah would continue to have Community of Hope standing with her reassured the landlady that this wasn’t a risk but rather an opportunity, going from leery to being excited about what she was doing to help out this family of five- giving them a chance that no one else would.
Thought the Path of Hope program, we were able to assist in procuring funding for move in costs, as well as the beginning utilities and some of the basic furnishings that Sarah and her children would need to start their lives. Finally, Sarah and her family had found their way home- she was able to keep her promise, with some help from the community.