For my last interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer. Her story is one that many other individuals are likely to relate to. It is the story of not quite living on the streets, but not having a secure place to live, of always being displaced.
Before her season of homelessness, Jennifer lived with her boyfriend. They had a child together, something that her family did not approve of. She was disowned by her family. Her boyfriend was irresponsible with their money, often wasting it on things other than their rent or food. She realized that she couldn’t stay with him, she had a baby girl to look after now, and so she left. Jennifer worked three jobs, struggling to support her daughter. To save money, she had no choice but to live in small apartments within unsafe neighborhoods. It was scary having to dodge bullets on the streets.
To Jennifer, the hardest part about being homeless was having to leave her daughter in the care of others when she had to go to work. She remembers a point in time where she would hold her daughter close to her until the very last second that she could. Yet despite the pain that it would bring her, she made it her priority to never let her daughter be the one to suffer. She made it a point to always communicate with her daughter, explaining that she has to work so that they can have a car, food, and a home. Together they would make a list: two things for Jennifer, two things for her daughter, and things that they both needed.
During the times that they had no money, Jennifer would ask whoever she could if her daughter could go over for dinner, while she would settle for junk food. For the most part though, Jennifer admits that she had a hard time asking others for help, though she would if she had no other choice.
When I asked her about how she would cope, she stated that after she would put her daughter to sleep, she would just drink until she was drunk, and wake up the next morning to take care of her daughter and work again. In addition to that she also admitted to being slightly promiscuous, something that is definitely better than her gaining destructive addictions.
These days, Jennifer has a job in real estate where she is one of the top workers. It’s almost poetic in a way that she went from a woman struggling to pay her rent, to a woman who is actually selling the houses.
Her next plan is to create a plan for a multi-housing unit for women who were in similar situations as her. Determined to never go through that again, she lives “like the floor can fall out from under [her].” She now has a safety net, so that they’ll be fine if something were to happen. She says that while they aren’t rich, it does feel nice to splurge every once in a while, to not be living check-to-check. Looking back, she said that if she had not gotten pregnant, she never would have gone through homelessness, but she did not regret having her daughter. Her daughter is very much her best friend, and they have a very open and honest relationship.
After interviewing Jennifer, I’m left wondering about just how many parents, single or not, have to go through situations like this. Not only is it difficult to get back on your feet when it’s just you in a season of homelessness, but I imagine it’s harder when you also have a child to support. I ended the interview with one last question asking her about what she would tell someone who was going through that situation. With a fire in her eyes, she said “never stop putting one foot in front of the other.”