Greetings Friends! As many of you know, at Open Table Nashville it is a celebration when one of our long time friends finally moves into a home! It’s a new chapter in their lives! It’s a wonderful and exhilarating feeling when our immediate concern is assisting them with getting furniture and settled into their home. Our friends are no longer shivering and quivering in the biting cold or suffering from heat stroke in Nashville’s glaring sun. You might think that struggles have come to an end after someone moves into housing, but sadly it’s not the case.
The initial excitement of moving into housing starts to fade when bills pile up and money comes up short. The system of poverty still exists and it sets up small obstacles to trap people into a cycle of uncertainty and fear of losing their home. There are many factors our friends face that come into play as a result of the system. For example, a person making $13 over the poverty line, makes too much to qualify for Government food assistance (SNAP), but they don’t make enough to pay for their high electric bill. Or, if a person unexpectedly gets laid off, is not receiving unemployment benefits, and is terrified at the possibility of living in their car again—they are out daily hunting for a job.
I am sure many of us experienced a time when we were behind on one bill payment and it become hard to catch up on it. Who did you turn to when you needed financial advice or to express your frustration that your electric bill was high this past winter compare to last year? For me, I often turn to my mom and sister. Others turn to their partner, friends, or maybe you don’t share your business with others. Likewise, our friends are the same. Some call us to express their frustration, but many others don’t share until someone calls to check on their well being and asks about their rent or electric bill—That’s when the flood gates opens. All the anxiety and fear rolls off of them as they talk about what’s going on in their lives.
It is a crippling overbearing pressure on your chest when you don’t have a job, can’t pay rent, your landlord wants you out, you don’t have enough food in your home, and your electric will be soon cut off. You don’t know what to do or who to turn to. During that difficult time, you may need someone to simply let you pour out all of your emotions without judgement, to be supportive and have a listening heart, and yes maybe even get you out of this situation.
As Open Table Nashville’s Retention Coordinator, I journey with our friends at this new chapter in their lives. We celebrate when a rent or electric bill is paid or when they purchase a phone to setup email and Facebook accounts to reach out to their family members. These milestones are worth being celebrated.
Now, understand I am not the fixer but rather an ally of support that try to safeguard their housing. I brainstorm with friends on a plan to prevent them from losing their homes, arrange for them have nutritious food, work with them to find employment, and provide emotional support to those who are overwhelmed by their situation.
It is honestly a scary feeling when your electric is cut off. It is overwhelming when you get a 30-day eviction notice and only have a specific amount of time to find a place. It is stressful when you can pay electricity and rent but won’t have enough money left to buy food for yourself.
At those moments, our friends may feel alone in their homes. But they are not alone.
We, at Open Table Nashville, work hard to keep people in their homes. Some people may consider the streets again because they are fearful, angry, and devastated at their housing situation even though they know the streets weren’t safe for them and they remember that they fought for months and even years for this home. They are grateful but their situation is incredibly stressful that they see no way out of it. In these circumstances, I often remind our friends that we are there with them and we will continue to walk together with them on their journey to housing stability.
And now, I welcome you to share your compassion and have an open mind to our friend’s new chapter in life. There are times when it seems there is no hope in sight in those cloudy days but we will push through it and find rays of sunlight. There is always hope.