My friend Mike Martin works in the Flint area helping families who are currently living there in poverty. He called me recently regarding a family of five living in a home (for over a year) with no running water – no toilets, no showers, no laundry, no sinks. Husband and wife and 3 children. What?! No water for a year?! Three children?! I thought – how does that happen?
Mike said, “Deanna, there are people that are so far behind in their ability to lead a productive life.” I asked, “Where do you even start?” He answered, “You start with the children because the problems of poverty, alcoholism, drugs, and prostitution cycle through families from generation to generation.”
Dad (34yr old) is the son of a prostitute and a crack addict. When he was young he was able to live with his grandmother for 8 years, but then was forced to live with his Mom because she found out she could get a bridge card (government funding which put money in her pocket) if she had custody of him. His stepdad (also a crack addict) beat him up daily.
Mom (30yr old) is the daughter of alcoholics. She has no high school education or driver’s license.
They grew up in South Carolina in poverty. Mom and Dad meet, marry, and have three children. They leave South Carolina and come to Michigan for employment. Dad gets a job as a manager of an auto parts chain store. They buy a home in Flint. They are doing okay. But Dad’s past causes him a lot of emotional pain. So he starts drinking. Alot. He ends up losing his job and then their home. They are homeless in Flint with three children.
The city of Flint has homes in a land bank that can be bought for cheap. But they are homes that were in foreclosure so they have been stripped of everything (sinks, cabinets, copper, all plumbing). Dad quits drinking and pulls it together enough to buy one of these homes to get them off the street. They live there for a year but can never get ahead enough to pay to have the home plumbed or for any fixtures (sinks, base cabinets, toilets). They use the basement as a toilet. The children are in a bad school and are getting beaten up on their way to and from the bus and at school. Enter my friend Mike. He comes in to try to plumb the home and put fixtures in it. The project is overwhelming because the home is in such bad shape. Unfortunately Dad starts drinking again. At this point Mike has gained the trust and friendship of the family and is able to convince Dad to enter a four month rehab center. It is a good one because not only do they treat the physical aspect, but there is significant counseling, which Dad needs.
Mike is worried about the children living in unsanitary conditions and convinces Mom to leave the home and go into a shelter. The shelter apartment is small but has running water and a small working kitchen. But it is temporary. He gets Mom enrolled in an excellent work program. The program requires participants to get their driver’s license, get their GED, be drug-free, and volunteer 30 hours of time. The program teaches job skills, life skills, and offers therapy. If you finish the program you are guaranteed a job. In 2016, 48 people went through the program and 40 are still gainfully employed. So there is great hope with even greater proven results.
But how do you break the cycle? Start with the children, Mike says. The children are not safe going to that school (for many reasons – story gets a lot longer). There is a good K-8 Catholic school (majority of children that go there are not Catholic) in the area that would pick them up. They would be safe and they would get a good education. Most of the children who go there come from hard circumstances, so there is a lot of extra assistance and guidance. They can get food, they can get clothing. But there is tuition. And Mike already got another family in under their last available scholarship.
So, I ask Mike – how can I help, how hard can it be? Well, they need $8,976 for the upcoming year (that is the total including all three children). I am reaching out to all of you in hopes to gain your support for a family that is living in crisis mode and is deeply in need. You can make a one-time donation or a monthly donation, depending on your resources. Depending on how much is raised, we will send as many of them as we can. My goal is for us to be able to fund all 3 children into this new and safer school for the 2017-2018 school year which starts this month (August). All donations collected will be paid directly to the school.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful consideration. Please feel free to call me with any questions! [phone redacted]