3/11/2006

 

Hearts of Ice

A new family joined our program yesterday, a young mother with a precocious 3 year old girl. I met them after I'd made my way to the church after work. The little one is full of energy and innocence, and reminds Mama and I of Nessie at that age. The mother is a young girl (I'm guessing not too far into her twenties) and has that same air or disconnectedness and unfamiliarity I’m sure we had when we entered the program. We haven’t talked with her much, except to the extent necessary to make her feel that she’s not in this thing alone (a counselor is best for that), and we certainly haven’t asked her any questions. But we’re here if she needs us.

As I watched the littlest one play with Nessie and the other girls in the church gym, I was struck by only one thought: what kind of person would allow such a precious child to be turned out in the street like that? Granted, we haven’t asked her mom what brought her to these circumstances (it’s none of our business). It could be that their home suffered some calamity, or was locked up due to some sort of environmental concern. I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet the farm that their being here was actually just the result of somebody flexing their financial muscle at someone of lesser means.

I guess I’d make a lousy landlord. I care too much. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing some action I took meant that a little child barely out of her infancy would be spending her nights God knows where. Maybe the job description for a landlord requires having a chunk of ice the size of the Titanic’s iceberg lodged firmly in your chest.

I often wonder why landlords, who could do more than anyone else to make a dent in the area’s homelessness, decide the welfare of their banker is greater than the welfare of the children whose families rent from them. Yes, landlords are as entitled to make money as anyone else, but why can’t a modicum of social conscience be applied to families who want to rent? Why can’t landlords look past a bad credit rating to see a father working hard to provide for his brood, or a single mother trying to put her life back together after a divorce, or children who need educational stability? Why not look past a balance sheet to see a family struggling to stay afloat, or a man trying to stay one step ahead of an addiction, or a woman trying to make sure her daughter doesn’t make the mistakes she made? Why not have a heart, instead of a cold ledger sheet where a heart should be?

America is a brutally capitalist country, and maybe I’m wishing too much. Maybe some would call what I’m advocating socialism. That’s their lookout. All I’m saying is that landlords could – could – look past their pockets just for a moment at that family across the desk and consider for a moment that he is may well be the only thing standing between them and a life on the brutal streets. He may be all that stands between them and a life continued in the grip of poverty, miseducation and addiction. He may be the one thing that helps keep this family together. He may be just who they need to keep from contributing to a growing problem.

He may be able to help.

And there’s not a bank account in the universe big enough that can match the feeling you get from helping someone in need.

Comments:
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You answered your own query: "America is a brutally capitalist country, and maybe I’m wishing too much." Isnt it better to make sure that all who work studiously can afford to rent a place to lay their head? What kind of place let some get thrown to the wolves while others live off the fatted calf? The sandwich isnt that bitter until we all take a bite of it.
"In the dark it just you and I" Nina Simone
 
What if the landlord is dependant on rental income to keep his or her own roof over their head? I totally feel what you wrote, don't get me wrong, but you have got understand that often landlords are a step away from finacial disaster themselves.

By the time it gets to eviction, the property owner already hasn't been paid for 2,3 sometimes more months. 3 months without any income on property that often still has a monthly mortgage. That still has to be paid. Some landlords even use rental income to pay for both the mortgage there and on the property they themselves live in. So when folks can't pay their rent, they are often putting the landlord in a financial bind.

I do wish you and your family the best of luck. I had a brief bout of homelessness in '95. I had to send my kids to my folks for the summer while I worked 12 hour shifts every single day to get the money together for an apartment. It took me over 2 months. It was rough, I know how you feel. I hope you all get a place soon.
 
I am interested in checking out Social Credit instead of straight socialism myself. :-)
 
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