Seems to me that the more you have to look someone in the eyes, the more compelled you are to come up with solutions. Evelynn’s eyes were filled with tears when we met her for the 1st time yesterday. 

Like too many folks in our community, she received a letter from the City of Chattanooga Waste Resources Division dated Jan. 24. The letter stated that she had defaulted on the payment arrangement she had made. Unless the balance (including late fees and interest) were paid in full by this Friday, her water would be disconnected. We’ve read letter after letter this week: same cut-off date, same rules. “Now where am I gonna come up with $846 by Friday?”

So many bills, so much money, and so much more than the lack of water service at stake. Most of our guests are renters. Their lease contracts clearly state that lack of operative utilities is grounds for eviction. Our guests are only too aware of that clause. So what if they have a leak and their water and sewer bills are high? Not all landlords have their tenants’ well-being in mind. ‘Nough said?

Each of our guests admits that they didn’t fully pay their sewer bills. The reality is that they couldn’t pay. The reality is that we have thousands if not 10’s of thousands of people in our city who can’t afford their most basic living expenses. Those expenses go up. Their incomes don’t. Their rents go up or they’re displaced altogether.

And where’s Evelynn supposed to go? She’s in her late 70’s. She’s alone now. Her son used to help her, but he was shot and killed last year.

It’s like this: Evelynn’s income is $770/mo. Her rent is $500. She has other bills – electric, water, and of course she needs food. She gets $33/mo. in food stamps. That sewer payment arrangement added over $150 to her current sewer bill. You did the math, right?

That’s Evelyn’s story. Not space or time for Ms. Hooks’, Tommy’s, Priscilla’s, Gerald’s. . .the list continues. This Friday’s their deadline, too. We’ve paid half of many, some of all those bills but we can’t sustain that. Tonight, tho, Evelyn has water.

She paid almost half and we paid what was left. “$400 was all they’d let me borrow.” We had the money because of generous donors who ‘get it,’ people like you.

Evelynn had the money because she got a payday loan. 

Seems to me that the more you have to look someone in the eyes, the more compelled you are to come up with solutions.