Back in 2013, I connected with a woman who was so resourceful that she had turned her bathroom into a year-round vegetable and herb garden.
Four years later, I found myself surprised to see posts by her on Facebook indicating she was living in a hotel and very close to out of resources, facing homelessness.
I messaged Laura to find out what was going on specifically and to see how I could help.
It turns out that back in February of this year, Laura had to move out of the home she had been living in because of a toxic environmental issue that was making her sick.
It had been two years and she was beginning to have mobility issues because of it. Once it became clear it wasn’t getting better and before it got worse, Laura put her belongings into storage and moved into a hotel.
Now, when I say hotel, I‘m not talking Eloise at the Plaza. I’m talking the Quality Inn in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The good news is that it’s safe and has free breakfast, which she makes the most of by pocketing some fruit and bagels she can eat throughout the rest of the day.
And free wifi included in the $63.17 per night rent, which she needs so she can finish the classes she is taking online through Southern New Hampshire University and getting all As in, even through all of the challenges she has had with her move and her health.
And no bed bugs.
The bad news is that Laura never expected to be at the hotel more than a month, sure she would be able to find another place to live, and now she’s been there more than 90 days and is completely out of money with nowhere else to go.
Laura is 59 years old. She has spent most of her adult life as a caregiver of others, a community volunteer, and an artist.
She was living sustainably running her own shop on Etsy, growing food in her bathroom, and expanding her skills by returning to school with the support of student loans.
Until she had to move.
And now, 90 days later, she is completely without resources and with no family to help her and no apparently available social services that can help her with her housing crisis.
Laura is facing the very real possibility of being out on the streets.
At 59, with mobility issues.
If this isn’t every woman’s worst nightmare, I don’t know what is.
I used to think bag lady syndrome was just a syndrome. Now, I’m seeing first-hand that it’s not. It can become so very real so very quickly.
I can (and will) write another post about how exactly Laura ended up in the hotel for 90 days and using up all of her resources, even after we raised $1,298 in the first round of the Generosity campaign and I (and a few donors) paid for three weeks of her hotel stay in April.
I can (and will) write another post about what all of us who may be afraid of what we are reading here can do for ourselves now to make sure it doesn’t happen to us.
But, what I’d like to do here in this post is ask for help on behalf of Laura, and on behalf of all women in Laura’s shoes right now (and all of our Elder Orphans, really), and on behalf of the part of me that is terrified that this could happen to me later in my life.
What Laura needs right now:
To have her hotel room paid for through May so she can use the rest of this month to focus on finding permanent housing she can move into before June 1. The cost of that is likely to be around $1,500 for the remaining month with two weeks at $368 each (a negotiated/discounted rate) and then the final week at a higher cost due to the Memorial Day weekend.
If you would like to contribute you can PayPal Laura directly at: [email protected].
MOST IMPORTANTLY: LAURA NEEDS SUPPORT TO FIND AFFORDABLE, PERMANENT HOUSING WITH SECURE MAIL DELIVERY
This looks like a 350–450 square foot first floor (no stairs or elevator) permanent living space in Indianapolis, Indiana, in an area that is sufficiently safe, that ideally has access to public transit and a safe mail delivery, as Laura shops online and runs her Etsy shop out of her home.
And I would like to continue this conversation about how we can help the women who find themselves alone, without resources and with nowhere to turn for help more systematically and sustainably, without relying on governmental benefits that are hard to find, get and receive.
Frankly, ladies, we need to build this for ourselves. We can continue that conversation here in the comments and in my next posts on this topic.
This is where you can find Laura online:
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UPDATE MAY 5, 2018
It’s been a year since I wrote this and a lot has happened for Laura, yet she is once again on the verge of homelessness, if she doesn’t receive support.
Over the past year, Laura did find a more sustainable housing situation, in the form of a long-term hotel, with an ADA room, laundry on the same floor and a small kitchenette with secure mail delivery, and a more stable rent of approximately $1000/mo. in the downtown Indianapolis area with access to public transport.
Laura was able to move some of her things out of storage, get her Etsy stores partially back up and running (though she needs to move more things out of storage in order to be able to make custom items) and keep herself going through the Fall and Winter.
But, now, as we move into Summer, Laura is once again on the edge.
When I explored why that is with Laura, it made sense: one of her Etsy products is “chicken sweaters” that people don’t buy once the snow stops, her storage bills continue to pile up and she has been unable to move her remaining items and get access to her crafting gear, and Laura doesn’t get financial aid over the Summer. (Laura is a straight ‘A’ student despite all of the housing challenges she has had.)
And, it also seems that Laura has gotten worn down by the stress and uncertainty of her living situation and income, and at times has collapsed emotionally and not been able to ask for help.