Help Us Avoid Homelessness

I am the mother of 5 and throughout the years I have taken on the parenting and support of other children as well. I try to be a help to my friends and community whenever and however I can. I work hard to support my family and even though I haven't completed my college degree I have qualified myself for living wage jobs with a hodge podge of experience, education and growing my professional networks. Many of you know me and most would be surprised to know that I am in a constant struggle against food and housing insecurity. I have been living in survival mood for so long that the daily worries are just normal and taking the family to a hotel when we are without a home didn't seem so bad to me. Well we are facing this situation for the 4th time and my kids have expressed stress and anxiety to me, their teachers, and each other and it finally set in to me how no matter how "use to the struggle" or desensitized I have grown that my babies are suffering despite my best efforts to shelter them. Why? Why do we struggle? I could point to the statistics - the facts that women, black women in particular, earn less then their white or male counterparts, or I could discuss the horrible lack of affordable housing in my city, or I could talk about the kids fathers who best case scenario are under educated and under experienced to gain living wage employment and worse case would rather live off a girlfriend then take care of their adult responsibilities. But instead I will bare my truth. I am stuck in survival mood! I can't plan for a rainy day because they never stop coming! As a mother of 5 I have always struggled to find a place that was affordable and big enough for us. Our real struggle began with our first duplex. We moved a street away from a known troubled neighborhood. The first time I called for a repair the landlord came quick to take a look but took their time to come back to make the repair. By the time we were in our 3rd week with no working stove I walked into Tenant Resources and asked about my rights. I contacted the city inspector as I was advised and he came and he served my landlord up a 35 page list (front & back) of violations that needed to be addressed, including removal of black mold from the basement. When our lease came up she did not renew and worse she refused to provide a reference (& still will not) she just does not respond to requests. Nothing negative just nothing. That was the first time I took my family to live in a hotel until I could figure something out. I finally found a landlord to look past the lack of a housing reference for the past 2 years and give us a shot. He charged me every type of deposit he could think of, security, first month, last month, pet, washer/dryer...a total of $4,000 to move in. But I pulled up my big girl pants and I worked triple shifts at my 3 jobs and I made it happen! We lived there for 3 years. Three years of broken windows, clogged toilets, slow to no repairs, questionable neighbors..but we endured because the last landlord taught me the price of calling the inspector. After 3 years I figured I had enough of a reference to find a new place so I announced I would not be renewing my lease. We found a place and moved out and I exhaled just a bit that my rental issues were finally resolving but then he kept that big security deposit. I went to the UW law clinic and they took my case. I had learned not to trust landlords so I had documented every unaddressed repair via emails and photos and a video. He lost and after the judge froze his account he paid. But now I have lost that one good reference... And found myself back in a property of a owner who just didn't care. This is a phenomenon that I just don't get! If I can ever become a homeowner I will cherish that dwelling and keep it in the best repair I can. But so many area owners just dont!? We found ourselves once again in a hotel. Now we are at the end of a month to month lease that depended on my employment with the owner. I had to leave the job because it was a toxic environment, after a week of driving to work in tears and a constant stomach ache I put out my resume and quickly found a new healthier work environment. I finally spoke out to my family about my situation and my mother has agreed to be our co signer so I can finally qualify to move us into a decent and well managed place. So why do I find myself in need of help and desperate enough to disclose this embarrassing truth? I live paycheck to paycheck. I lost a weeks worth of wages staying at UW Hospital with my daughter for 4 days. It's a new position so I have not earned any paid time to cover my absence. I have no way to pay either December rent to stay in our temporary home nor the security deposit and first months rent if my mother's backing can get us approved by the end of the month. This is a huge departure from my grin and bear it, balance the world alone on my shoulders lifestyle I have been living for 2 decades but yesterday in a moment of exhaustion I reached out and asked you all to send good and healing vibes to us so my daughter could be discharged from the hospital- I didn't say it was not just about her health but also so I could get back to work and earn that much needed paycheck- but that was 50% of the stress I bore. And you all responded and we were released home! Old dogs apparently can learn new tricks. I stepped out of my bubble and opened up to my mom- she immediately offered the help she was capable of, I reached out to my network of friends and family to help me talk to a God I have long been quiet to and they all came through! Asking for help, especially financial is something I hate to do and rarely will. But I woke up this morning with this in my heart so what's the worse that can happen? You all now know my deep dark secret...the best is we can be supported and helped by our community and friends and we can avoid being homeless. I know I am far from the only mother in this situation and times are hard all around but any help you can offer will be appreciated more than I can express in words here. Thank you for the time it took to read this. If you can help, please do. If there is something I can do to help you in return please let me know! Thank you for listening.


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Tara Wilhelmi 
Madison, WI
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