Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Homeless no more


It's a scary word. But it's a much scarier condition. Especially when I have an amazing daughter I'm supposed to provide for.

I have been without a permanent home for 7 months. Yet, the Lover of my Soul promises that He will take care of me far greater than He cares for the birds of the sky. I have gotten to see Him do some of His biggest work in my life, in a situation so much bigger than I am capable of solving, that there's no way I could ever take credit for the resolution to the problems.

When I lost my job last summer due to circumstances beyond my control, because I hadn't been prepared financially, I couldn't afford monthly housing bills. In October, I gave up my apartment and amazing friends let Austyn and me live in their bonus room, eat from their table, and enjoy their family. It's only because I was transparent and vulnerable with a Facebook post last Fall that they even knew I needed compassion and help. And their amazing hearts led us to be part of their family for a while. I praise God for that family!

In January, they told me they'd need the space for other family members by April. Though I knew our time with them was drawing to a close, my financial situation wasn't getting better, and I had no idea what to do. I contacted a church in town that has homes it uses for missionaries and a group of homeless families. The church usually does not allow private families to live in the homes, but they made an exception for us. I was given from April through June to live in that house. And I praised God for that quirky housing provision.

I knew I needed to find a permanent place to live, but I still didn't have enough income to pay full rent anywhere. One day, feeling very frustrated and overwhelmed at the enormity of the problem, I contacted the city's director over public housing, who two separate people had suggested I contact. He got me in contact with a local non-profit that uses grant money to help people in temporary housing get into permanent housing. The program pays deposits and rent for a few months and ensures the renter will be financially stable at the end of the grant funding. I was accepted into the program and told to find a home within XX price range.

Finding a safe, really low-cost, 2-bedroom apartment, duplex or house that allowed our cats - which my daughter desperately needs for her mental and emotional health - was exceedingly difficult. After three emotionally-exhausting weeks of searching the housing ads, websites and physical addresses, I was getting nowhere. Finally, last week, I found one that seemed like the perfect fit. I checked the crime map, drove into the neighborhood at night, talked with neighbors, and applied for the property after explaining my financial hurdles to the property manager. I even took a friend to see the neighborhood on Saturday. I'd had a nagging gut feeling the place wasn't safe, but figured I was overreacting because the neighborhood wasn't as nice as ones I'd lived in before. After all, I'd done my research.

On Sunday, the friend I'd taken to see it came to me after church. She told me she hoped she didn't frustrate me because she knew I was weary from house-hunting, but that she had reliable information that neighborhood was really unsafe. I thanked her for loving me enough to be willing to frustrate me if it meant keeping us safe, and I waited and prayed, not knowing where to step next.

On Monday, I made a third call to the property manager of the apartment I'd had to give up in the Fall. I explained how hard it is to find a safe, affordable place. I told her my cap on rent, which was lower than what they were renting for. But, she said my old apartment was available and even agreed to lower the monthly rent for me. Then she told me they didn't accept pets anymore - and my entire countenance fell. She heard how deflated I became and said she'd see what she could do. We agreed she'd check on the pets and I'd see the apartment today.

This morning, I got a call from my mother, whom I'd listed on the rental application to the apartment my friend had unsafe information on. The property manager called Mom, who had rented from that company in the past, to tell Mom that she did not want her daughter and granddaughter living in that house, as an active drug house was right across the street. She promised Mom that she'd help me find a safe place. As I was hanging up with Mom, she called me.

I kept my appointment with my previous property manager and, long story short, my former apartment has been upgraded with new appliances, ceiling fans, and many other little things. And, they'll allow me to have the cats since it didn't smell like pets when I left it before! The paperwork still has to be signed, but the property manager and the non-profit that'll be paying the first several months' rent both say that's just a formality.

When I told my friend (the one who'd told me the other apartment wasn't safe) that I'd be able to move into my old apartment, she mentioned something profound when she said, "How amazing that God not only protected you from that neighborhood but let you know that He protected you! He is so merciful!"

Not only did God show He incredible mercy and protection, He also gave me wonderful insight into how to discern when the Holy Spirit is warning me. I second-guess myself a lot, so I figured that's what I was doing. Yet, He had the Holy Spirit warn me, and when I didn't realize that, He sent a friend with my best interest at heart to warn me. And then He sent the property manager to warn me!

While this season of temporary housing (one step above true homelessness) has been very wearying on me, it has been AMAZING to see God provide all the quirky, atypical ways that He's provided. Never in a million years would I have expected the journey to look like this. And though I eagerly await getting the keys and laying my head on the pillow of my own home again, I know this is just one small part of life's journey where I must learn to wait on His timing and trust Him through the process. While I've been displaced, He's also put Bible study curriculum and Godly, caring people in my path to help me realize this is a season to buckle down and work HARD so I can re-establish my finances the right way and become stable again. For a long time, I was angry at the unfairness that I might have to get a second job. I railed at Him that I'm already doing too much as a working single mom. Once the anger subsided and I accepted that life gets hard, isn't fair, and that I should just take responsibility for what I need to do, God showed that He will more than make up the gap.