familiesneedhomes
The Shermans (left) The Crismonds (right)

(Editors Note: the community may recall two working families which New River Tenants Union has helped with eviction and unsafe housing because of slumlord neglect. The following interviews with both the Sherman family and the Crismond family provide an update on their situations since losing their homes. Please help local working families get the gift of a home for the holidays by donating to their fundraiser here

 

THE SHERMANS

Since you had to leave your unsafe housing in Adams Marke what has your family’s situation been like?

Anthony: There are places that are open that accept applications but as soon as they look at our background they see Radford Company “evicted” us 18 times, and that’s all they see because of what they did on our record even though we weren’t really evicted 18 times.

Tiffany: I didn’t think it would be this hard finding another place, I just thought we’d be out of a home for a month or two and find something.

Anthony: For the first time in our lives we have steady income, we have the money to pay for a place just no one wants to give us a shot. We found some other places but they said our family was too big.

How has this effected your children?

A&T: We try to keep them from all this, they’re not stupid, but we try to keep them from knowing, every day they talk about stuff we lost, we haven’t really sat down and told them about the whole situation. It breaks our hearts, they had a special baby’s blanket and those are gone, we wanted to keep those things forever, pictures of people who are no longer with us. There’s a lot of things Radford Company threw away we can never replace. We ran into the property manger and they told us they still have my mothers’ ashes and our bibles. Because we were banned from the properties we couldn’t even go to our extended family’s thanksgiving since they live on Radford Company property.

Whats it been like trying to find new housing?

Anthony: We’ve looked everywhere, we have steady income, our extended family has even offered to cosign if someone is willing to give us a chance. Because of Radford Company and what they did to our record no landlord will give us a chance. Radford Company said if we pay them everything we owe they will let us come back.

They threw everything we had away, I don’t have shoes, I don’t have pants, I have to wear sandals in the snow, I have to wear shorts. All my mom’s stuff is gone, all of that stuff meant so much to us. We know their offer to let us move back in means accepting a home littered with roaches and bedbugs. That was the problem, it wasn’t like they weren’t being told anything, and after all that they wanna “invite” us back?

How many application fees have you paid?

A&T: Three application fees around $50 dollars per adult, every place made us pay for each adult, we basically paid them to look at our record and deny us.

What do you thing is the long term solution to this issue?

Anthony: Winning the lottery and building our own house and getting our own land. Either that or pay off whatever debt we may have or go back to Adams Marke, to go live in the same stinking ass trailer we got kicked out of and paid thousands of dollars each month.

Tiffany: I don’t think there is one, there needs to be a miracle

Anthony: Help, we just want help. We aren’t able to save any money living like this. Make affordable living actually affordable, if it’s suppose to be based on our income don’t make the upfront cost $2,000 dollars with a deposit and first months rent. Landlords are already starting workers off in the hole, especially people on social security. Being retired after working a job 50 years, that retirement isn’t covering people’s needs.

What’s “affordable housing” isn’t affordable around here. Make it affordable for everybody. We even went to the Bluffs and they said “we earn too much”. What’s the reason why they can’t help us? It took my mom two years to find a place, she was never evicted anywhere but she was blacklisted by Community Housing Partners. We tried to take in my mom but CHP said she was trespassing when we lived there and we got evicted for trying to house my mom.

Nobody wants to let us just work and live our lives. Rich people are out for themselves. We aren’t asking for handouts, we pay our own way, but there’s no help. New River Community Action said all they could do is give us a bus ticket to Roanoke, because that’s where the homeless shelters are where me and my wife would be separated, I wouldn’t know where they are and they wouldn’t know where I am, if we didn’t have kids we could separate and find a place easier. We got three babies who need a stable place to live and nobody wants to help.

The non profits basically say “here’s some scraps, you can deal with that until someone else gives more scraps”. If you have some type of pull try to help. Look where we are today, look who our president is, we need to help each other now more than ever. The person heading us all is a 70 year old child who is selfish and all people are doing is proving that’s what America is, selfish. If many people see me in the street they’d tell me “you’re a bum” and “get a job”, even if you have a job you can’t get a place to live, we both have steady income, so why cant we get housing? If getting a job was all it takes to have a home then why are we in this situation?

People wanna say they are Christians and do good for their fellow man, but if you aren’t a dog, or a kitty cat, no one is willing to help. The New River Tenants Union is the only major help that we have gotten. All we wanna do is raise our kids and make them proper citizens of society, make sure they are instilled with the morals that we grew up with, and became better people than us, we just wanna be a family and not have to worry about where we are gonna live next month, we are a family of five who use to be four because we took another child in and we can’t get no one to help us? We may scrap and struggle sometimes, but we pay our bills. We do what we do because of the kids, but sometimes you need help, why cant we get help?

Tiffany: to get back to this helping thing, a lot of people knew we were living in this condition and they were asking us “why were you living like that?” but when we tried to get out of that situation a lot of those same people said “you should have stayed there” and weren’t willing to help us after we did try to do something about it. There’s this quote my friend read me and I think on it a lot, “how come it’s always those who have the least who give the most and those who have the most who give the least?”

I am always praying and trying to be positive, even with my faith we get weak, we question “what did we do to deserve this?” people just tell us to pray more rather than give help. What needs to be done for us to get by? Do we need to just end up living out of our car? Out of a shelter? What do we have to go through to get the help other people get?

Anthony: Do we have to sink so low that my wife loses her job? Do our kids have to go to school dirty first? We don’t want any of that we just want a safe place to live where we don’t get bit at night. That saying “don’t let the bed bugs bite” isn’t funny, we deal with that.

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THE CRISMONDS

Since you had to leave unsafe housing on Phlegar Street what has your family’s situation been like?

Melanie: Most of our stuff we don’t have with us due to limited space. I had to go to my brothers’ to get our winter clothes, we’ve been at my aunt’s longer than we should have been or wanted to be. My son is still staying in Riner and we have to take him to school and work, plus paying for storage, if we had our own place it wouldn’t cost as much.

My son wants to drop out of school because he can’t concentrate with all this, he said if he didn’t have to worry about housing he could do better in school, as a parent I feel a lot of blame.

You mentioned your son, how has this effected your children?

Melanie: My daughter tells me she constantly wants to see her dog, wants her own space, she’s gotten to where she just stays in one room and in her bed, because it doesn’t feel like it’s her home. She just lays in bed, can’t have friends over. She feels like her life has stopped, that she doesn’t have a life. She says all I do is work, she has nothing to do, all we have are our clothes. All I want is stability.

Whats it been like trying to find new housing?

Melanie: It’s been very difficult due to having a HUD voucher and being told one thing and it being something different. Affordable housing just isn’t here for working class people. All those up front costs of rent, security deposit, are a lot on top of having to move all of our stuff, we have all of our stuff in 4 different locations. We only have one income to support us.

There’s a two year waiting list at Christiansburg Bluffs, one year waiting list at Heather Glenn, Fieldstone Apartments (which was meant to be affordable housing) said I didn’t pass their credit score. Even if I am willing to drive longer distance there still isn’t a space available. Linden Green was full, there’s a waiting list there as well, a lot of the problem with these places require a $50 dollar application fee. My son also has to apply since he is 18 and I have to cover their application fee as well.

We’ve even been driving around looking at empty places and leaving sticky notes for owners that aren’t even advertised at available. When I have a day off that’s what we do, we go search for housing rather than have family time. My son asks me weekly “when are we gonna have a house” I tell him “I don’t know, I don’t know what to tell you anymore” We drive around all the time and see empty houses but can’t get in any of them.

How many application fees have you paid?

Melanie: We’ve paid these application fees over four times, that’s about 80-100 dollars each time just to be put on a waiting list. I used to get food stamps and now they’ve taken that away when we have three people to feed. Because I don’t have my own housing social services has decided I don’t have housing expenses so they took away our food stamps.

Your son is working too, right?

Melanie: Yes, trying to save for a car, pay off financial aid, help pay for costs of living, on top of trying to go to school. He says the life has been sucked out of him because he’s having such a hard time studying and concentrating to maintain his grades. He’s had to trade off on less hours since leaving our last home.

If we had housing I wonder how much better my son’s grades would be. These days you have to have a college degree to get a decent job and I don’t want my son to have to go through what I have and do better. Because we have to drive all over we get up and go to bed earlier and earlier, I take him to his place at 11:30PM nightly, but he still has school work to do. He withdrew from one class because he cant focus. If we had a house he would have been able to do better in school.

How about your daughter?

Melanie: We share a room, she doesn’t have her dog, this housing dilemma has put her in a slump. We can’t relax in where we are now, its not our home. She also is having issues focusing because of this situation.

What do you thing is the long term solution to this issue?

Melanie: Have affordable housing so people aren’t having to work two or three jobs so they can spend time with their families. I have to make a choice constantly of being with my family or having to work nonstop. It’s the situation of being a single parent. I make sure they have something to eat, but then I am off working all the time. How can we do anything together when we are struggling to save up for a new home?

How does it effect your job?

Melanie: Just not having housing, people asking if we found anything or how much longer. It’s caused tension between me and coworkers because of stress already there and of course when you have stuff going on in your family you try to take care of that first, but you also have to go to work and keep pushing through despite all these issues I am dealing with. We are also dealing with worrying about extended family and if my mom has cancer, we are waiting to see if that’s that case or not.

We don’t have family time, my family time is just taking my son to work or school, I ask him what he needs like food or anything else but he always says “I need a house”, hes so busy that when he does have downtime he just wants to sleep. You shouldn’t have to deal with so much at such a young age. Sometimes I don’t see my son but two to three times per week. I see my daughter maybe 25 hours a week, like part time. All I can do is work, I can’t have parental advisory, I worry about not being around more and hope she is making good decisions since I am not able to be around enough.

We’ve called churches, New River Community Action and they all have said they can’t help unless we are literally living on the streets. Where do you turn when you’ve exhausted all options?

I’ve had no healthcare for two years. I had medicaid, they said I made too much and cut me off. My kids, because they were under 18, were covered. I’ve had to leave my kids sick otherwise I’d have to get a doctors note, but I can’t afford that. I had to pay for surgery out of pocket, I didn’t even go back for a followup for this because I didn’t have the money. I removed the gauze myself from the abscess the doctors drained rather than go pay for more treatment.

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Please help local working families get the gift of a home for the holidays and donate to their fundraiser here

One thought on “Working Families Homeless During The Holidays

  1. My son in same situation he is being evicted from his place the 31st and nowhere to go except he gets ssi because hes disabled. We have paid many fees foe applications just to be tuened down because of the previous place he lived. Ive sent letters to the usda, the news and the senator no response yet. Not sure what we will do. Hes becoming desperate and this is why so many people end up homeless and become theives, because survival mode kicks in and whatever you have to do to survive is what you will do. At the place he lives now its hud approved but you have to have perfect credit to live there. What poor person has perfect credit?? If so qhy wouldnt they buy a home?? Thats why its called low income housing…

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