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Middle Class To Homeless
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The recession has affected many people who never thought they would hit the financial bottom.
Columbus homeless shelters are serving more families than ever before, and many of them were middle class families.
It’s about 5 o’clock in the evening on a school night. 41-year-old Raymond Goode pulls out a large, purple plastic bin containing snacks, and he sets it on the dining room table. His children, still in their school uniforms, quickly gather around to choose candy or Cheese Nips.
The Goodes live on the Hilltop. It’s a new neighborhood for them. Until this summer, Raymond says they lived in Canal Winchester in a beautiful, large home they were renting to own.
“We paid so much for that nice house. It would have been nice if we could have owned it. Three weeks to get out of it. That’s totally devastating, you know?”
The people from whom Raymond and his 33-year-old wife, Carol, rented the house took their monthly payments and put it towards something besides the mortgage.
“The bank came and stated that the house was going into foreclosure,” says Carol.
The Goodes and their six children already faced hard times. Raymond, a custodian, had been laid off about a year earlier and struggled to find work. Carol, who is an LPN, was nine months pregnant and had taken on an extra job to pay the bills.
“It was making ends meet,” Carol says. “And I was like if I could just get these last three weeks in we’ll be set. But I ended up having the baby early, you know. And then I had time off prior to that because of some other medical issues that was going on during my pregnancy. It kind of threw a wrench in everything I planned.”
The Goodes never saw the foreclosure coming. They had no money saved. The family was forced to put half of their belongings in storage and get rid of the rest.
The eight of them moved in with Carol’s mom for about a week.
But the one-bedroom apartment was more than cramped.
“We ended up going to the shelter, the YWCA family shelter. We stayed there for about three weeks,” says Carol.
“My wife was very upset,” says Rayomnd. “I was not really upset, I was basically embarrassed and ashamed, you know what I’m saying, because I didn’t think this could ever happen to me.”
Cheryl Brewer works with the Homeless Families Foundation. She helps families, like the Goodes, find permanent housing. Brewer says the numbers are unprecedented. She says homeless shelters have been forced to turn to hotels and rental companies to find temporary housing.
“The number does not shrink. It’s just not going down. We’re working as fast as we can to try to get families into their homes, and we’re making a difference. But they just keep coming back in and a lot of the reasons are I couldn’t pay my rent, I lost my job.”
The Salvation Army gave the Goodes money for a deposit and four months rent to help them get into their new home. And the family now receives food stamps. Carol says the experience helped her realize they had become too fixed on material things, like the large home, rather than what she says really matters.
“We were paying $1,395 (in rent). That’s a big chunk of money. You know, but I was willing to pay that to have the comfort for my kids and our family.”
But now, she’s looking forward to saving money.
“That’s the good thing, instead of putting out just about more than what you’re bringing in. Now I can have a better budget and save a lot more than what I was before.”
The Goodes’ children have been resilient. Raymond says they’re making straight A’s at their new schools, and they have a better understanding of managing money.
10-year-old Rachel and 12-year-old Raymond, Jr. have noticed changes in their home life.
“I think that it brought us closer together because we struggled and had hard times.”
“When we were in our older house our mom had to work extra because she had to pay all that rent.”
Mom Carol is working less. She has a year left of school before she can move up to Registered Nurse – which she says will bring in more income.
Raymond finally found a full-time job as a custodian. And he says his sights are still set on the American dream – homeownership. But for now the house on the Hilltop…
“It’s home. We’re not homeless. We feel comfortable here.”