If Louisa complains about the unsanitary living situation, her landlord will kick her out. That's what she thinks, and she's probably right. We see it every day here at MetMin. There are plenty of other folks ready to pay that low, $450/mo rent.
We saw the pictures. The plumbing never has worked right. The front door won't close, and most all the windows are broken. The rat holes are now big enough for possums. "Please don't report it! Me and my kids will have no place to go!"
Louisa has 3 kids ages 14,16 and 17. The 16 year-old suffered a head injury at age 5, had multiple surgeries, and is disabled. Epilepsy. Asthma. That's why she and her kids moved here from Chicago 11 years ago, so her parents could help.
It was a good situation. Louisa worked, her parents helped with the kids, and life was good. When her parents died, "it didn't go 'down hill.' It was more like 'down mountain.' "
Now the only income the family has is her son's disability payment, less than $800/month.
When Louisa visited us, the family's water had been cut off for 2 weeks. The electricity was about to be cut off. Her able-bodied kids have been doing what they can - mowing lawns, washing windows, whatever brings in some income.
"Last week my daughter said, 'Momma, I haven't seen you smile in 2 weeks.' That broke my heart, but wasn't it beautiful that she noticed?
I have dreams for my kids. I don't want them to struggle like I do. I want them to graduate and go to college and make something of themselves. We've been thru a lot, me and my kids, but we've gone thru it together. They're good kids."
Yes, we got the water turned back on, we helped with the EPB bill, and we helped with food. What we can't do is find them a decent place to live.
The affordable housing crisis is real. Let the solutions come.