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How a family ends up living in one room

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Where is home?

Well, Charlotte is my home, but we don’t have a a home. I have been living in a motel for the past three years. My three boys, daughter, and I have shared one room, two beds, and one bathroom this whole time. We don’t even have a closet. Since it is not an extended stay, there isn’t a kitchen.

Tells us about your kids:

My daughter is 18. I have three sons: ages 13, 9, and 7. I am worried about my middle schooler because our living situation is making him quite depressed. My kids are good kids. My youngest one makes me smile; he’s like an old soul.

What do you miss the most about not having a home?

The kitchen table. A kitchen to cook in. I miss conversations around the table. My kids eat on the floor where we are now and we don’t end up talking much. I think all of us are just tired of our situation. We are always on top of one another. If I want to cry, I don’t have any privacy. My kids can’t go outside because it’s not safe. They only have a parking lot to play in and cars speed through without looking. Some of the tenants are not good people.

Are there any other families living there at the motel?

Yes, there are about ten or twelve families. I don’t let my kids play inside their rooms because I am not sure what is going on inside. I keep my kids safe. If they want to play outside, I take them to the nearby park.

Any plans to move?

I am currently looking for a two or three bedroom apartment or house that is around $800 a month. If I can find a place in a good school district (Montclaire, Selwyn, Cotswold…), that would be best. Every time I have enough money to move, an unexpected expenses comes up and uses our moving money. Once I am able to find a place, I will reach out to organizations that donate furniture. Since we live in the motel, we don’t have much. The picture below shows what our room looks like without any of our things. Our room isn't nearly as nice as this room since it has never been painted or maintained.

What do you do for food?

I have learned to survive with a microwave, a hotplate, and a deep fryer. We also have two mini fridges that slide under a desk. I never want my kids to feel hunger, so I make sure I can always feed them. I do receive food stamps but they are not enough to feed us all. Communities in Schools also donates food to my family.

How else have you become resourceful?

I have become a master at couponing. Every Sunday I buy three newspapers. I put paperclips on the coupons that need to be cut out and give each of my boys the task of cutting coupons. I then put them into a binder that has baseball card holders so I can organize them. Otherwise, I can’t find what I am looking for or they expire. Bi-Lo doubles coupons everyday, so I have learned to make a $300 grocery bill turn into just over $100.

Where do you work?

I have been in the service industry for several years. I work at a sub shop making minimum wage. I never expected to be making minimum wage at the age of 40 or to be living in a motel. I want to give my kids a better life. I have reached out to Dress for Success and am hoping they can help me find a better job. I want people to know that I am not a mom who just wants checks from the State. I want to work. I would like a job with regular hours that pays more than minimum wage.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Fort Pierce, Florida where there were a lot of gangs and crimes. I stayed mostly with my grandparents since my mom wasn’t able to care for me most of the time. She was and still is an alcoholic who I had to take care of too many times. The last time she took me to live with her, I watched her get beaten by her boyfriend over and over. I was so scared one time that I tied the sheets together to climb down from the balcony. My grandparents came and got me and I stayed with them until I left home; they are good people. I was my mother’s only child for 21 years until she had my brother 19 years ago.

Did you ever know your father?

He walked out of my life at age 18. A few weeks ago, he ran into family in Florida and got my number. He called and I was so happy to hear from him. I explained my situation and he said he would help buy me a car. Up until then, I had to rely on the bus and the light-rail. I had saved money to move. He said if I used that money to buy a car, he would pay me back. I bought the car and never saw a dime and haven’t heard from him since. I would have traded that car for a relationship with my dad. It really hurts to have him turn his back on me again.

At the age of 19 you had your first son. What was that like?

I fell in love and wanted a family to love so badly. I wanted to be loved. My boyfriend’s mom gave me her wedding dress to alter for our wedding. The wedding never happened. When I was nine months pregnant, my boyfriend and I were at a convenience store in Fort Piece, where he was killed during a drive-by shooting. They shot at me too but missed. I held him while he died. My son never got to meet his father and I never had my wedding.

Are you in relationship now?

It took me a long time to learn that I need to love myself first before I can ever love anyone again. I was in a relationship with the father of my boys for 15 years and many of those years were bad. I was carrying the weight of everything- working, paying the bills, and caring for our home while caring for our kids. We fought a lot because I wanted him to help more. When he left for Florida, my stress levels went down quite a bit. That’s not to say I am not stressed now. I am beyond stressed. I do have to add, their dad loves them even though he doesn’t show it financially.

How do you handle the stress?

I pray. I wake up every morning and thank God for my kids. I am thankful that they do have a roof over their heads (although we would all like a different roof). I like to think I am passing on survival skills to my kids. I am a survivor. I do get quite sensitive when people question the hours I work and ask why I am not home with my kids more. That hits a nerve. Like any mom, I want to be there for my kids at all times.

Why did you move to Charlotte?

I first came to Charlotte from Fort Pierce, FL in 2008, after deciding I wanted a better upbringing for my kids. I had heard so many great things about Charlotte.

What was it like moving to a city where you didn’t know anyone?

It was hard. I left my three kids with my grandparents in order to get established in Charlotte. I was pregnant at the time with my youngest when I arrived in Charlotte. I worked until the moment I went into labor. When I gave birth that day, I have to say it was lonely not having any friends or family here with me. It was just me and the baby.

Why was it so important to bring your kids to Charlotte?

The schools in Fort Piece are rough. I want my kids to have a good education and to also know that they are safe. My son was so surprised that the schools here don’t have the amount of security on campus that they did in Florida. In Fort Piece they had a gang unit, a school resource officer, and a probation office all on campus. My son was amazed that they don’t have all that security in his Charlotte middle school. I love North Carolina!



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