Homeless

In front of the rental house getting ready for a walk.

I stood in the school office of Lewis and Clark Elementary School and listened to the secretary tell me how to fill out the paperwork I held in my hands. The explanation was simple, except for when she asked me to show proof of address. At that moment in time, I had nothing to show her. I left the school office and drove to the home where we were living to come up with a solution. It was the first day of school, and I needed to find a way for my children to be able to attend. The secretary said it was as simple as showing her a utility bill. If only I had one to show her.

A couple of months before, I came home from picking up kids from school to find an eviction notice taped to our front door. The landlords had decided to sell the house, and we had 60 days to vacate. This was the second time we were going to be evicted from a rental because it was being sold.

I took down the eviction notice, packed up our kids and traveled to Corvallis for the weekend to participate in my husband’s brother’s wedding. When we returned home, it was time to put on Vacation Bible School at our church, and then direct a state-wide camp for 250 kids. The first 30 days of our 60 day timeline was gone in a flash. I started packing up our current house and began looking for a new place to call home.

At the time we had 9 children plus Matt and myself. As you can probably imagine, the rental market for a family of 11 was basically non-existent. In fact, I went into a local rental agency, and the receptionist laughed at me. The days kept going by, and I kept finding nothing. I tried my best to appear calm and confident to my children as I packed up all of our belongings. I didn’t want them to be worried. Inside though, I was a mess. I was responsible for 9 children, and I had no idea where we were going to live.

That’s when the miracle happened. A couple in our church had just purchased a small house to use as a rental investment. They offered to let us stay there until we could find more permanent housing. The house was only 1,100 square feet but it had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. At that point in time if it had only been a studio, I would have been thankful. The prospect of living out of our van was becoming more and more real. We moved most of our stuff into storage except the very basic necessities and into our temporary home, just before the 60 day deadline was up.

It was supposed to be for just a few weeks while we continued the search, but time went by and we still didn’t have a permanent place to live. So there I was on the first day of school trying to figure out how to register my children. That was when we asked the gracious couple who had let us stay in their home temporarily if we could be their first renters. I was worried they wouldn’t let us, and I would have understood. I had discovered in my search that trying to find a home for a family with 9 children wasn’t very simple. People assumed we would be terrible renters who would destroy their home. This was just one of many assumptions people have made over the years about my large family.

Thankfully, Tom and Vickie agreed to rent us the house. I’m sure they were apprehensive about the number of people who would be living in their home, but they rented it to us anyway. All of the utilities were included in the rent except for garbage. I started garbage service and took that utility bill into Lewis and Clark so my children could start school. I felt such a sense of relief walking out of the school building knowing my family had a place to call home for as long as we needed to. Tom assured us as long as we paid our rent, we could stay in the house. He had no plans of selling it. We had never missed a rent payment and I was confident we wouldn’t miss one in the future, and so my heart was at peace.

Charity’s was not. I had tried so hard to not let the stress of the situation affect my children. Apparently my middle daughter, Charity, felt more concern than I realized. When we told the kids we would be renting the Weaver house, she wanted to know how we could be so confident it wouldn’t get sold, and we would have to move again. Since she had experienced this twice before, she didn’t feel the same level of confidence and my word wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy her. She wanted proof straight from the source. I told her she could talk to Mr. Tom about it.

The next time she saw him, she looked at him with her big five year old brown eyes and asked him if he was going to make us move someday. He looked back at her and told her she could stay in his house as long as she wanted. She believed him.

We lived in the Weaver house for a year and a half. I learned a lot during that time about what we needed verses what we wanted. We ended up clearing out the storage unit we had been renting and only had what fit in the house and shed. The house was snug and cozy for a family our size. This gave us great opportunities to grow and bond as a family. We especially learned how to be patient with each other. Fast showers, sharing floor space, and playing outside in the yard whenever possible became survival skills to keep the peace. Looking back, although I would have preferred not to have the stress of not knowing where we were going to live, I am so thankful for our time in that rental house. It tightened our bond as a family in ways I couldn’t have manufactured in a different environment. I am still thankful for that time of closeness.

We now live in the house of our dreams. It’s almost 3,000 square feet which still feels huge to me. It was quite comical when we moved in since we only had enough furniture for one room. The rooms of course have filled in the past three years, and we added another member to our family. On days when the volume is loud and my house feels full, I laugh and remind myself of where we have come from. It keeps me grounded, reminds me what is important, and rekindles my heart of thankfulness.

I will never forget the kindness of Tom and Vickie Weaver. There are people who make such a profound difference in your life their imprint on your heart is permanent. They chose to help us when we really needed it. They said, “Yes,” when they could have said, “No.” The world would be a much more beautiful place if more people were like them.

Abby

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