Jasmine Ingram, 37, has not always been homeless, but she may be sleeping in her car with her three children in the coming weeks.
Her troubles began in May, while she was renting a home in Hamlet, for $400 a month. In April, Progress Energy sent her an electric bill for $875. Alarmed, she called the company. According to Ingram, Progress Energy said they could do two payment arrangements a year. They also said they would come check her electric meter, but couldn’t come inside the home due to a rental policy. Her landlord told Ingram to “just flip off the breaker when you leave in the morning” to which Ingram said, “that’s not normal,” and “I have children.”
Ingram has an 8-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.
“At the end of May, I told my landlord I couldn’t make the rent payment because I was still trying to get that (electric) bill down,” said Ingram. “So she said someone was coming to look at the place, and I should go ahead and put my stuff in storage.”
Ingram was without a home, and had a storage unit bill added to her worries.
Not knowing where to go next, and struggling to make ends meet, Ingram contacted the Transitional Housing office in Wadesboro, who said she didn’t qualify for shelter because her son was 14.
“What if I had been in a domestic situation? These are the kinds of things I am asking myself now. What is a mother to do?” said Ingram. “I asked them, is there no where else I can go? And they said no, and wished me good luck.”
Change is coming
According to Nina Walker, executive director of Sandhills Community Action Program, HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) is making changes to their policies in order to be more inclusive. Walker said those changes take effect Aug. 30.
“HUD often focuses the most on homelessness in urban areas, and because of that, in rural areas, we often fall through the cracks,” said Walker. “HUD has totally re-evaluated their regulations.”
Walker said Ingram is currently not considered homeless, as long as she is staying with a friend and has a roof over her head. Having a teenage son kept her out of transition housing, but that will change.
“Our transitional housing has a rule in place not to accept teenage boys, but that will soon stop because HUD does not want to separate the boys from their families,” said Walker.
She said Ingram and others in her situation will soon be considered “precariously housed” after the changes take effect at the end of the month.
“It’s a good thing,” said Walker. “The regulations are changing.”
Eligible and waiting
Ingram contacted the Rockingham Housing Authority and filled out an application for a housing unit. Not having heard from them in over a week she contact them, and was told she was eligible for a unit, she said.
“I was excited when I heard that,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for a unit and it’s been a month.”
“The Rockingham Housing Authority currently has approximately 80 eligible applicants on our public housing waiting list by date and time the applicant is received,” explained Chereka Belton-Odom, director of the RHA. “Applicants are sorted on the waiting list by bedroom size according to the Rockingham Housing Authority occupancy standards. Assignments are made so that opposite sex, (other than head, spouse, and infants) persons of different generations, children two years and older, and unrelated adults have separate bedrooms. It can take up to approximately eight months before a unit is offered to an eligible individual/family due to unit availability. RHA currently has a 99 percent occupancy rate of available units. There are six units that are currently undergoing renovation.”
Ingram called weekly to check on the status of her unit, and was told she was in the top 10 to receive one, but also that it didn’t necessarily mean she would get one. Concerned about the approach of school registration, Ingram continues to struggle.
“I’ve been going from house to house with bags. I’ve been staying with friends, but they have limitations on how long guests can stay. I work. I’m a taxpayer. After next week I can’t stay with friends anymore. I don’t even have an address to register my kids for school, which I need to be doing now. I’m going through some things right now and I need my community to help me out. My vehicle is all I have. I have storage bills, car insurance, food and clothes. I just found out my oldest daughter has type II diabetes, and I need a place to store her insulin. My kids are stressed out. It messes with their morale so bad,” said Ingram.
Ingram said she receives food stamps for her children, who are also on Medicaid. She said she does not qualify for Medicaid, and has diabetes as well. She said she doesn’t have family in the area, and feels that as a working adult, she should be able to take care of herself.
“I’m not having babies and asking for handouts,” said Ingram. “I’m working. I’m trying to do this the right way, but people are not calling me back, they are dragging their feet because they have (what they need), and I’m just a number to them. I’m tired of people who don’t call back. I’m tired of chasing people. I’m tired of pillars in this community who say they are all for helping people but they are not. I need stability for my kids.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.