Saturday, January 15, 2011

Free Time: Getting closer to solving the puzzle.

I met Chantrice today. She's going to take the majority of what I found for free on craigslist during this wacky Free Time experiment.

I also met Myasia, Chatrice's daughter. Cute cute cute.

It was important to me to talk with Chantrice. How does someone become homeless? How do resources dry up? At what point do circumstances become so dire? What crappy combination of dominoes have to fall to find that you've landed in the middle of a desperate, lonely sea of nothing?

Not everyone starts this race at the same point of privilege.

Chantrice started her life, 22 years ago, swimming in turbulent waters. Born in Kansas, Chantrice has five siblings, ranging in age from 11 to 23. Three fathers. One neglectful mom.

When Chantrice was three, she entered the foster care system. She and one of her sisters were placed in a foster home together, but eventually, they were separated. Her brothers went to different foster homes. It's not easy, keeping that many kids together.

Chantrice hasn't seen a few of her siblings for years. Her youngest brother was adopted, and the family who adopted him wanted to make a clean break. Chantrice knows her youngest brother's name, but she doesn't know much more than that, because his adoptive parents required that his family of origin retain zero contact.

There are dominoes in Chantrice's personal history that were set from the start with very dysfunctional assymetry.

In saying that, I'm not judging at all. It's just the truth. Sometimes the hand that's dealt is full of really crappy cards.

But back to Chantrice.

She did get adopted through the foster care system when she was 15. She graduated from high school, applied for some student loans, received a Pell Grant, and started college.

But there was a man.

She'd met him through the foster care program. He was a foster child, too. They hooked up. She got pregnant. He enlisted in the military, and they moved to Colorado Springs, where he's stationed.

She couldn't find a job. He lost the housing on the Ft. Carson base that could accommodate the family. The relationship soured.

So Chantrice headed north, to Denver. She couldn't find work. She had no resources. She had no money. She'd left Myasia with the dad, while Chantrice tried to find a foothold in the big city.

No such luck.

No job. No place to live. No prospects. Her relationship had literally gone south.

Chantrice looked for a job. She tried to get connected with organizations that could provide support.

This is a terrible time of year to be homeless. Need vastly exceeds availability.

Her ex ran through his child care options. So, without a home or job, Chantrice faced the reality that she needed to take care of her daughter, too. No support from the dad.

Chantrice wound up, despondent, at the parking lot of the St. Francis shelter. She was thinking she'd have to put her daughter into the same type of system she'd come from. Foster care.

This is when she met Michelle.

It's a beautiful team, Michelle and Chantrice.

Michelle hears a lot of down-and-out stories in the profession she's chosen. And she's intuitive enough to recognize Chantrice isn't asking for help because she feels entitled. Michelle sees boundless promise. She understands that Chantrice simply wants to work, to finish an education cut short by circumstance, to provide for her daughter.

Chantrice applied twice to a marketing firm, and just a few weeks ago, she was hired. But because she was employed, she was even less of a candidate for some space at a shelter.

Michelle has done everything within her power to help Chantrice. Michelle was able to line up some vouchers for a room at a motel on east Colfax for Chantrice and her daughter. The vouchers are about to expire.

But Chantrice has been working. And she recently put down a deposit on a 1-bedroom apartment with her first paycheck.

Chantrice gets paid again this upcoming Friday. That's when she'll seal the deal on her apartment.

And that's when we'll be moving the items I found in my Free Time into her new place.

I asked Chantrice today how much money she has between now and Friday. She has $6. But she says she has everything she needs for now. A job, shelter, the kindness and generosity of Michelle.

There's so much more to write about. More about Chantrice's history, her optimism, her clarity.

But this is enough for today.

It's good to know that Chantrice - as well as my Free Time items - have found a home.

All the pieces are beginning to fit.


  1. Nice work Mary. You, Chantrice and Michelle are all inspirations for me. Apparently I have to get off the couch now?

  2. No, no, Dorie. Couch time is essential! I'm having a bit of it myself right this minute! If there were batteries in my hind end, they'd be recharging.