Last week was hard. We, like many in South Texas, lost power in the midst of a historic winter storm. Temperatures were in the teens for days on end and we were forced to seek shelter for us and our three dogs.
We were lucky to find and be able to pay for a hotel for two nights, but on the third, there was no room at the inn. There was no room at any inn. Thankfully, we had friends that opened their doors to us and our small zoo.
Every day, we would return home to get what we needed for the next, sending up hopes that we would find the porch light on.
The effort and uncertainty were exhausting. Simply surviving day to day was almost all we could do.
On day four’s trek home, my husband saw streetlights where there hadn’t been any before. Block by block, he marked porch lights as he got nearer to our house and hope grew. As he rounded our corner, he saw it. We had power.
I packed the lot of us up, thanked our friends profusely, and headed home. It was heavenly to feel safe and in our own space again. I took a nap. I overpaid for bottled water. I trimmed my hair. The dogs slept.
It felt wonderful to be somewhat back to normal.
Many of you reading this went through the same thing and are nodding your heads.
But one thing haunts me. As we were feeling our most vulnerable, our homeless friends were their most stable. You may not know this, but some of Crossroads nonprofits housed many who would otherwise have been at the mercy of the elements in temporary shelters and hotels.
For a few days, they didn’t have to worry about safe shelter or regular meals. When we went back to that security, they lost it.
If the past year taught us anything, it’s that there’s a fine line between being one who has and one who has not. And once that line is drawn, the divide can become huge. If you, like me, found yourself on the have not side of the line last week, I hope it was a wake-up call. Nobody wants to live that way — frantic to find shelter for their family and wondering how they’ll eat.
When resources aren’t available it doesn’t matter how hard you work. And when simply surviving takes everything you have, there’s very little of you left to do anything else.
In Victoria County, 52% of our households are ALICE – Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed — or below the poverty line. That means more than half of our neighbors are living some form of last week’s nightmare every day.
An unexpected event like a hotel stay or having to throw away the food they just bought may mean they can’t pay their rent or car payment next month.
It means their kids may go to school hungry and they definitely won’t join sports or other enrichment activities that help children learn.
It means they may have to move and change schools or lose friends. Again.
It means they may not be able to pay for internet or data, so they can’t work or go to school during quarantine.
Resources aren’t just electricity and water. They are a safe and stable home, the ability to learn and work, and more.
As we all go back to our normal lives, I hope you’ll see those who are hurting in a new light.
I hope you’ll suspend judgment.
I hope you’ll be kind.
I hope you’ll help.