Monday, February 04, 2008

When Ends Refuse to Meet

Today’s rent intervention didn’t have exactly the ending I had hoped for. The good news was that by the time I arrived this afternoon, the family had managed to scrape together enough money from friends to make their rent payment. The bad news that no one saw coming was that the apartment management declared that the young mother and her 3-week-old baby had to move out because of over-crowding.

She was devastated by the news, on top of feeling strapped financially. I read the little hand-written note in Spanish and noticed that it did not indicate by when this had to happen. So I suggested that the grandmother and I go over to the rental office to find out.

Apparently there is a county regulation that mandates a certain number of square feet per person and limits occupancy to two persons per bedroom. This family well exceeds that limit right now, although I must say the baby doesn’t take up a lot of space. The management office gave them until April 1 to address this problem.

They have the option of looking for a 3-bedroom apartment and all moving, but that would probably double their current rent (that they are having difficulty paying).

I called a lawyer friend who put me in touch with a housing office in Arlington County. It turns out that a certain number of apartments come available each month under Section 8, under which the occupant pays just one-third of his/her salary in rent. There are no guarantees of what will be available and there may be a waiting list for such housing.

I will continue to make phone calls, but I may be powerless to solve this housing problem.

Meanwhile the baby is thriving. She is already up to 9 pounds and is absolutely beautiful. She wakes up just once at night and never cries. She seems totally unaffected by all the worrying going on all around her. Here she is just after getting a bath. She is wearing a sweater made by a Blogger friend.


Blogger Jamy said...

Wow, that sweater is HUGE! Hopefully baby will grow into it. (I'm writing to you directly about the housing issues.)

7:22 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What a difficult situation, especially frustrating in that the problem is so much bigger than one family and for that one family, it can be everything.

8:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Jamy -- Thanks for all the help. There is a little time, but not too much.

Kristin -- Unfortunately this one family is just an example of a problem that is everywhere these days as rents go up and salaries don't keep pace or people lose their jobs altogether. Getting involved in this has made me appreciate the fact that I own my house and I can decide how many people live in it!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I hope they find something they can manage. Housing is such a huge pproprtion of what we need to spend our money on and it is such a monumental struggle for many I don't even know. Everyone I know has a nice house and maybe even a cottage.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- I will no longer take my house for granted. I often wonder what I would do if I were in the situation of these people who are new to this country and new to the bureaucracy. As my Guatemalan housecleaner said today, "It's better than where we came from."

12:17 PM  
Blogger kimy said...

bless you barbara for taking such a caring interest in this family and their plight. I read yesterday's post first and saw today's was an update. I was so impressed with what you did yesterday in terms of mobilizing things, even though it turns out that the rent did get covered so it was a bit for naught. but nothing is for naught, eh?

my heart breaks when I come across these stories, and there are way too many of them. it is so shameful that this type of situation is so commonplace in our 'great land'....housing, healthcare, food, education, jobs, transportation - all the basics are neglected or inadequately addressed by the system.

I have family that lives in the metro d.c. area and hear a great deal about real estate, rental prices, etc. and it blows my mind. I can't understand how people who with limited means survive down there (well, I guess that is questionable).

and then these county regulations you mention. if a government makes such regulations, I say it should be their responsibility to provide the means for people to adhere to them - which means having a supply of affordable alternatives!

my husband comes from a family of 'modest means.' his parents bought their small two bedroom home and raised their four children in it. the six members of the family lived happily and lovingly in this small house until each child left to start their 'adult life.' three of the four kids even lived in the family home while attending college. both of my husband's parents have passed on, the house though still remains in the family. today my nephew lives in it - hopefully the love and manifestation of the good things about family/community which existed through the years has permeated the very essence of this house .....

beautiful baby! I offer whatever 'good vibes' into the universe for this family and for you for helping them out! we are all our brothers and sisters keepers!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kimy -- Thanks for your thoughtful insights on this dilemma. I'm so hopeful that it will have a happy ending for everyone concerned. I'm sure we will all learn a lot about the housing possibilities for people of limited means.

I find it somewhat ironic that a 9-pound baby who takes up virtually no space could be the catalyst for this change.

Love the story of your husband's family and the fact that the modest family home is still being put to good family use!

5:26 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

A hard case. I agree with you that just giving money is an inappropriate response that generally provides temporary relief, but usually solves nothing.

People need to be supported and encouraged to become the best that they can and sometimes this may mean some sort of social support network. On the other hand, it has to be weighed against those who would abuse the generosity.

I hope things work out for them.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Colette Amelia said...

difficult lives, difficult problems, difficult solutions. Sometimes in many cases temporary help is only needed. It seems that to not help only makes more long term problems.

In a world where some have so much it seems terrible that there are so many who have so little.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I'm happy to be their advocate and research ways to improve their situation, but the decisions about what to change and how are in their hands.

Colette -- Everything you said is so true. That's what motivates me to be involved in this.

7:14 PM  

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