Homeless family searches for apartment
12/23/08 5:49PM By Lynne McCrea
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Part Two of the VPR Series "Living Without a Home: Meghann Cline's Story"
(Host) This week, we've been following the efforts of a Burlington woman to find a home.
Circumstances have left Meghann Cline and her three children homeless. They've been living at the COTS shelter for more than three months and time is running out.
Success would be: saving enough money for an apartment, finding an apartment that's affordable, and then getting a landlord to say yes.
Today in the second of two parts, VPR's Lynne McCrea hears just how challenging that can be.
(Sounds of stroller on sidewalk)
(McCrea) On a blustery, slushy day in December, Meghann Cline trudges through the streets of Burlington. ("There's the wind...")
She pushes her 2 year old son, Christopher, in a lightweight stroller, while her newborn daughter, Pax, sleeps in a sling tucked inside Meghann's coat.
(Do you want your mittens on in case you fall down? No! )
(McCrea) At one point Christopher, a typical toddler, realizes he probably should have worn his mittens...
Christopher) "Oweee! Should we put your mittens on now? Maybe
next time we should put them on before we go outside?
(McCrea) Meghann says she loves being a mom, and she's clearly proud of her children. 9 year old Troy, who's at school right now, is from her first marriage.
(Cline) "My 9 year old and I have faced some barriers... and he's just a happy, flexible, mature, adaptable kid - considering everything. I'm immensely proud of my son Troy. And Christopher is a shiny, rambunctious, smart, playful 2 year old - everything a 2 year old should be! And now Pax has joined us, and it's just great."
(McCrea) Today, Meghann is headed to the 'VNA Family Room'. It's a
drop-in play group that gives parents and kids a place to congregate...
(Cline) "Christopher loves it - and me, too. And kids get to play and moms chat, and it's really community.
enters room - " Hi, how are you, Steve?"...)
(McCrea) For Meghann, this place is a resource, and a refuge from the challenges she's facing. The reasons for her homelessness, she says, are complex...
(Cline) I made bad choices in my very young youth- early teen years, a combination of bad decisions and not getting support or guidance, and that had a huge effect on the next ten years. As far as more recently, this is both my husband and mine 2nd marriages. So there's some history there... and we're both starting over in a lot of ways. And more recently, we took the opportunity and made the decision to move to California - and we put all out eggs in one basket. And it didn't work out in the end. And we came back, pretty much in this position...Sometimes that's how it goes.
(McCrea) Meghann's husband, Robert, has been working steadily these past few months in the building trades, and the couple has been saving up for a deposit on an apartment. Meghann says she's made dozens of calls to landlords, and looked at a number of apartments. But so far, no luck.
(Cline) My contact info is at COTS and I'm upfront that I'm staying in a shelter and I'm conscious that some people may, as a landlord, may think of me as not a good tenant...
(McCrea) COTS says that there are some landlords who don't want to work with people who've been homeless. But there are also landlords who are supportive of COTS, and who work with the organization to provide housing.
(Meghann and kids outside playing in snow-"Looks like we're going to have a snow fight")
(McCrea) On a snowy afternoon at the shelter, Meghann enjoys a few minutes outside with her kids. She's feeling upbeat today, because she just heard from a landlord who has worked with COTS in the past and has an apartment that sounds promising.
She shares the news with her husband when he calls...
(Cline on phone) "I'm going to go look at an apartment tomorrow. It's $1800 to move in. Okay, so that'll put us...so, save that and that next check should put us that much closer...
(McCrea) The next day, in wintry weather, Meghann walks a dozen blocks with her two youngest kids to look at the apartment.
(Cline with landlord in background) "and this is the kitchen. Yeah, looks pretty serviceable..."
(McCrea) The rent is $900 a month, plus a $900 security deposit. And rent doesn't include heat or utilities, so the monthly costs would be sizable.
(Cline: "Any idea how much for utilities?... That really depends...)
Meghann has just applied for federally subsidized housing money. If she's eligible, the family would pay 30% of their income for housing.
(Cline) "Yes, give me an application... I'm definitely - obviously - interested."
There are still challenges ahead. Meghann's husband has been temporarily laid
off until mid-January, so the couple won't be able to keep saving up for rent,
at least for now. But Meghann Cline takes an optimistic view.
(Cline) "That success is built by small steady steps - and that it's not too late. It really - you can start those steps anytime. Past bad decisions don't necessarily mean failure of the future."
(McCrea) And Meghann Cline sees a future that includes steady work for her husband, and an affordable place for her family to live.
For VPR news, I'm Lynne McCrea.