Portia’s is the home that almost wasn’t. Her house was purchased in last year’s auction with the help of a last-minute $500 donation from Ruth, who lost her bid on her own home and re-donated the money back to another family. They put it to good use and are happy and still stable one year later.
So it really starts back when I had my baby 2 years ago– he was premature. So I had to hurry up and find a house because the place I was living in was not suitable. It had rats. That’s the first thing that was an issue and I moved in on the rats and didn’t know it. So I bought this house in 2012, 2 months after my youngest baby was born. Actually it was one month because he was in the hospital for like 2 weeks. I took him back to that other house, reluctantly, for like 2 weeks. And then we moved into here.
So, I purchased the house, it had been empty for 4 months. Luckily, in this area, this block, everybody watches out for everyone’s homes so they were watching it for him so all the original pipes were in here, hot water tank, furnace, all the windows, doors. Everything was put together. Everything has never really been tampered with or damaged. The only thing that’s not up to par is the bathroom in the basement, which has not really been an issue because it’s a working bathroom.
There was a program, a protective services program, against the kid’s dad so they were trying to assist me, you know, they try to assist you before they take your kids from you. And somehow– God’s will– this house came into play. It was a reasonable price– $2500– and it had everything it needed, especially compared to that last house where I was really only using one room plus the bathroom and barely using the kitchen. So, when I bought the house, the other program assisted me with 3 months worth of monies because it was a rent-to-own situation at that point. Now, far as me having an income, the income I had at that time was DHS– the state of Michigan– and my time limit was reached last year in February. So I been without an income that whole time, and even yet, still it wasn’t enough to pay the back taxes, which were ’09, ’10 ’11 on the house when I purchased it. It wasn’t at the state of foreclosure at that time.
Over the course of that time I went to DHS and asked them how the process worked and they do assist you with foreclosure and tax foreclosure or whatever. Well, come to find out, you have to pay your portion before your receive any support. But if you don’t have an income, how do you do that? It’s impossible. So after that I tried Step Forward and I started the application but something just said “call them” so I called them and asked them “Do you have to have an income in order to receive their funds” and they said yes. I was asking around but me running my mouth wasn’t getting me to far. So only thing I could do was just sit here and pray.
Around that time my lights got turned off and then, one week later, my water got turned off. And then my grandma died. And it’s just like, so I really wasn’t expecting to keep this house. I was thinking “forget it. If I lose this house I’m going to go back to Georgia where my brother is.” My immediate family is all up here but my brothers are down there and they will help take care of their sister. Now, they can’t send money or anything like that but if I were down there I could live with them or live off of them and they would welcome me.
When they had the massive “water shut off of Detroit” that was on CNN an all that- my water was shut off. The water shut off lasted, probably about 2 weeks. I made a payment arrangement to get the water on. I haven’t made a payment since that payment arrangement. It’s pretty much like, whatever I have to tell them for me to have adequate living services, I will tell them. It’s not lying because if I had the money then I will pay the bill. I tell them to their face I have no income. Like “are you writing this down? Are you putting them back in the system?” but I make the arrangements to get the services back.
A bit about that, at that time my grandmother was sick and I didn’t really expect for her to pass away. She, ooh wow, about to cry, ok, but………. And I was standing at the foot of her bed when she died and its crazy because I didn’t even know she passed. I’m glad that I was there so she wasn’t by herself but I really didn’t know it when it happened. And for anybody to die, regardless of what people tell you that it will happen, they could say that until the sky falls down but you’re not going to really believe that until it happens.
My grandma died on the 8th and the flood was on the 11th. So at first I didn’t know the basement flooded. This street will puddle, even up to like 5 inches but it was a flooded street, completely flooded. It was terrible. My neighbor saw me laughing and he said “you must not have checked your basement yet” and I can’t believe it. Nicholas ran downstairs and he was like “ma.” My mother’s things were all being stored here because she was in the process of moving so, all her pictures of my deceased brother were ruined. We had a Christmas tree that came with the house but when the house flooded the tree and all the ornaments were destroyed. I just cried.
Before my brother died, there were always situations but nothing like where you really get stuck on. But after that, it just seems like the world opened up its negative eye and its just been one thing after another. It’s just a lot. First off, I’ve had 5 murders in my family at different times. So that gives you my mental status. I’m ok but, it fluctuates. My life is very funny to me though, I can’t do anything but laugh. Because otherwise you just cry and get depressed and then you need pills and who can afford that?
So, the day I met you, I was crying about the taxes actually–I didn’t tell you that– talking to my friend and trying to bounce ideas off of him and find out what’s going on. I was even asking him to buy me 5 bus tickets to get me and my kids to Georgia. You know, the way my options were playing out, it was the plan, the back-up plan and the back-up back-up plan. I saw you and I said “see another person come to take picture of my house. See? Now do you believe me? They trying to take the house!” Cause I was like frustrated but I was like “be kind” you know I try to be kind, especially to strangers you don’t know what their motives are so you have to see what’s going on first. And I was excited after I talked to you because the auction seemed like it was a good plan. But I didn’t talk to you for like 2 weeks or something because I have so much stuff going on, but I scrolled across your number in my phone and was like “that’s the lady I’m supposed to call!” I’m trippin.
I didn’t think it was about to work because I didn’t have any money. The lady asked me to write down what I thought the house was worth and I said I could write down a million dollars and it would be the same because I don’t have any money and she said “if that’s what you think it’s worth then write it down.” And I was writing all big because I was upset. It’s like, nobody’s still listening. I go to programs and they don’t listen they just say “write this on the paper and its gonna work out.” I was feeling negative vibes because most of the time it really doesn’t happen. But it did end up working out! I can’t believe it.
Going to the Plasma Bank– that’s my form of income right now– only gets $20 the first part of the week and $35 the second part of the week. And I do that every week but I have to buy toiletries, I have 4 kids, I have a dog, you know what I’m saying, that’s real expensive.
I don’t really have support with the kids. I have child support orders but… Nicholas’s dad got killed in 2011 so there’s no funds for anything for him. And the other 3 children have the same dad and, he’s not paying the child support basically. Nothing. Where he works at, what he does, I don’t know. Last I heard he was homeless.
I want to obtain the GED and then I’d like to go to Focus HOPE, they have a grant-writer there who can make me a grant for me to get transportation. I’d like to go to their program there to be a machinist operator and actually they get you a job somewhere around your 2nd to your 4th month. So with all of the qualifications I have I can take all of that information and take it to Chrysler Ford or GM and make more money than someone who has no experience, no certifications, no anything.
I actually have my HAZMAT, lead abatement, OSHA-30, as asbestos abatement, which can make me $15/yr right now. But with no transportation, you can’t do it. You can’t get to Ypsilanti on a bus. If you do you have to meet a job there at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, that’s not gonna happen. So I have the utensils to make money but with no actual transportation its hard to get a job. With the few rides I get here and there, its just local.
That’s part of why I only go to school about 3 days a week instead of 5. And I have to just push myself because it’s freezing cold. I had to walk my kids out today it was 11 degrees, I walked them through the park, you know that wind off the freeway is coming, cutting us in the face, dropped them off at daycare, stood in the cold, waiting for 2 busses to catch the right bus. Then I took that to Puritan and Greenfield and then I had to walk like 7 blocks to get to the school.
I have to do everything by bus and the children get picked up for school by bus too–ABC Transportation. But my daughters have to leave the daycare because ABC Transportation doesn’t want to pick them up there- so they have to leave there and walk around the corner, across the park back here to get the bus. And they’re only 7 and 9. And no one’s understanding, like, “can you just pick them up closer?” So the only thing I can do is pray on that because I have to do what I have to do too. I’m about to get them a cell phone, a government cell phone, so at least they can call 911 or my neighbor or the daycare. My neighbors were watching out for this house before we got here and they are watching out now that we are here.
It really is the best area for my family because, the park is right here, I would say in the first 6 months, my son, by being 12, young black boy, drug people can get him and all that stuff. But I have people here in this neighborhood, it’s only 5 blocks up from Diversity where my cousin is at so my son’s allowed to go only that far because on every block, there is someone watching out for him. So it’s a great network, for him and for me, as far as him being safe and comfortable. He’s left cell phones at the park, money, people bring it back here! I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
When we used to move all the time, or when I had them in the shelters, it was difficult. What grounds them now is that they are stable. That’s why I was like “if I’m going to be homeless, I’m not going to be homeless in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit does not take care of its homeless people.
I have been homeless in Detroit. That was before I moved to Georgia. My and the younger kid’s dad used to get into fights and arguments and disputes and I would leave his house and go to the shelter. I would do that every so often and stay awhile. Once I went all the way on the east side so he couldn’t find me. But the kids were being moved around. Constantly. They didn’t miss school because this really only happened during the summer months- that’s when we would have our problems. He wants to come back drunk and argue and he been gone all day. No body was concerned with it, do what you do, just don’t come back and argue and fight.
My son barely had a room in that house because if we left, their father would move somebody else in so even if we were back in that house he had to sleep on the couch sometimes. At one time I rented a house from their father’s mother and there was always different stuff going on in that neighborhood. It was always police, any different time day or night, it was like a war zone. And when we weren’t in the war zone were in the shelter. No stability for the kids. There might be stuff going on here but my kids don’t see it and whatever people are doing they keep it to themselves, they have respect for the children.
Let me tell you this. That window is open. The door behind you, that lock is broken. I have to get some more locks. My door had blew open the other day, it was wide open from like 2:00 to maybe 5:00. Nobody came in this house no body touched anything. Now I don’t have a flat screen TV but if I did no body would’ve touched it. So that’s stability and safety.
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Photo credit, Balazs Gardi