Hitting Home: Burlington woman continues to search for housing
02/20/09 5:35PM By Lynne McCrea  Download MP3
Part Three of the VPR Series "Living Without a Home: Meghann Cline's Story"
This segment is also part of the special VPR Series "Hitting Home: The Recession and Vermont"
(Host) We return now to our occasional series on how the recession is affecting Vermonters, with an update on Meghann Cline. She's the mother of 3 young children who's been homeless since last fall.
The economy has made her situation even worse.
VPR's Lynne McCrea has been following Meghann Cline in her search for a home, and has this report...
(McCrea) When we first met Meghann Cline, she had high hopes that she'd be in an apartment of her own by now. But then her family was hit by the recession again.
(Meghann Cline) Had Robert not been laid off, we certainly would have gotten that apartment... I mean... yeah, things would be very different, if he hadn't gotten laid off. It's kind of sad.
(McCrea) Meghann's husband Robert, who works in the building trades, was staying with his parents in Franklin County so he could get rides to various job sites.
Meghann was living at the COTS family shelter in Burlington with her 3 children: 9 year old Troy, 2 year old Christopher, and baby daughter, Pax.
After months of steady work, Robert had almost saved up enough for an apartment that Meghann had lined up. But then, in December, he was laid off. Robert says unemployment benefits were slow to come through.
(Robert Cline) "It's hard to get unemployment - it's hard to get through on the phone to someone to file for unemployment! - and... you've got to live, too. Got to pay for heat - below zero weather - the heat, the lights... Life's hard all around...
(McCrea) Robert Cline says the couple's troubles began over a year ago, when they moved to California for what they thought would be a good job opportunity. At first, the work was good. But then the housing market tumbled, and Robert lost his job there. The family came back to Vermont - all their assets gone.
(Robert Cline) "I laid out a lot coming back from California. I'm a homegrown Vermonter - born and raised here. I left with the promise of an opportunity in California... The economy went bad - California's got 12 million unemployed! - I've got family her, but it's hard for everyone, to be honest with you.
(McCrea) Robert says his parents are struggling in this economy, too. They're not in a position to take in the whole family.
Then, in January, Meghann faced a new hurdle: COTS allows families to stay at the shelter for 4 months, and her time was up. With no place else to go, she would have to move into a hotel room, subsidized by the state on a week to week basis.
(Meghann) "It's not a good situation - I'm really disappointed. I should have been into the apartment. I feel like I've done what I needed to do, and have really toughed it out, and I'm in this horrible situation - Even worse. (Worse, because?) Because being in the shelter was really a central location. I didn't have to worry about transportation with Troy back and forth to school. And you don't have the support system of a COTs - the staff there was really helpful so, it's a lot tougher all the way around.
(McCrea) With her 2-month old daughter Pax in a sling, Meghann boxed up food and clothes, and got ready to move out of the shelter...
(Ambience... saying goodbyes...)
(McCrea) Her husband Robert helped her move into a hotel room about 3 miles out of Burlington, down Shelburne Road.
(Ambience - car pulls up)
But after this, the couple will separate, at least for now. Meghann says that being apart this past 4 months has taken a toll on the relationship, and that, for her, losing the apartment uncovered other issues of communication and trust. Now, her uncertain future has her feeling scared.
(Meghann Cline) -Yeah, I am... I AM scared. I don't have much time with the hotels - as far as emergency assistance goes - there's only so many days they will give you in a year ... and if that time is up, then I don't know what the back up plan is..."
(Sound of going upstairs to hotel room...)
(McCrea) According to Economic Services, there's been "a huge influx" of people like Meghann living in hotels-the number of households is up six fold in Chittenden County over just a year ago. Generally, families are given 84 days in a hotel, and they're expected to work on a plan for finding permanent housing.
Meghann Cline's plan is to apply for federally subsidized housing... Ironically, she may be able to get more help as a single mother.
("I'm here to see Liz Whitmore - my name is Meghann Cline...")
(McCrea) Today, she's at the Burlington Housing Authority, where she balances her baby in one arm and a clipboard in the other. Meghann's applying for a special Section 8 voucher that's available to a very limited number of families who are homeless.
Once she gets all the necessary documents and completes the application, Meghann expects it will take another 3 weeks or so before the voucher comes through.
(ambience - bus)
Meanwhile, she'll live in a hotel room with her children, taking a bus home from her various appointments in Burlington...
(Meghann Cline) It wasn't the way Robert and I planned it, that's for sure. We were doing really well in California when Pax was conceived... and by the time she was born we were in the shelter.
Yeah, it's had a very personal impact.
(McCrea) Meghann Cline will do what she can to work through this latest challenge. She hopes that by March she and her kids will be living in a place of their own.
For VPR news, I'm Lynne McCrea.
Return to Part Two: Homeless family searches for apartment
Continue to Part Four: Homeless family puts down roots