I recently received this letter from a friend about her and her family’s struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic. She allowed me to share it here.
Good morning, Ruby,
I have wanted to write my thanks for your COVID and situational poverty blog post since it was published on Facebook, but life (and COVID complications!) has continued to get in the way. I can give personal testimony of how it has impacted so many of our family members.
My son, Nick, turned 40 in September. He has suffered with serious mental illness since 2001 but courageously makes the best of the circumstances. We were able to secure subsidized housing here in Baytown (2005–2011) and Houston (2011–2017) in apartment complexes designed to serve this population, allowing them to lead independent lives. In 2017, Nick decided he wanted to live in a “regular” apartment and moved into a tiny efficiency near NRG Stadium (all he could afford) right before Hurricane Harvey hit. Fortunately, Nick’s unit was not damaged, but with the shortage of rental properties available after the hurricane, management soon went up on the rent at each new lease period to the point where he could no longer manage on his Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the little financial support he allows me and his father to provide. In July, Nick’s father, James, bought him a used van so he could drive for Uber in hopes he could make ends meet and have reliable transportation to his job with the Census Bureau. When his lease was up in August, the increase in rent was more than he could manage, so he moved in with a friend. Nick’s father died suddenly in mid-September from complications from COVID after being diagnosed only 21 days prior to death! Our entire world was now upside down.
Nick has not been able to work for Uber (decreased ridership and his concerns about catching COVID now), so his friend asked him last week to move out. Nick was able to find a nice/safe apartment complex, so I cosigned as he does not make three times the rent ($880) from SSDI. He is still hoping the Census Bureau job will happen as he has worked tenaciously since February managing all the forms and jumping through the hoops a government job requires. His supervisor was most understanding about his situation and postponed his training from the end of October to November. We were able to get him moved in, and as soon as he gets Internet access, he should be able to do the online training.
Photos say 1,000 words. This picture of Nick’s new townhome dining room and den shows his material resources. The two lawn chairs were ours.
James’s mom and her husband live in an assisted living facility in Georgetown. My mom lives in an assisted living facility in Granbury. James’s mom’s husband of 35 years died in July from complications of a fall resulting in a broken hip. James’s mom has dementia. Fortunately, they have substantial financial resources, and we can pay for a companion to supplement the care she receives at her facility. I am one of her essential caregivers. The social isolation for months took a toll on both our moms’ mental health (and honestly, mine, too!). Since the governor opened up visitation, I make a monthly “mom tour” to see them and, in my mom’s words, “break me out of jail!” with a doctor’s appointment. (There’s always plenty to choose from!)
Thank you again for your friendship and your work. I share it whenever I can as I know knowledge is power. I hear your voice in so many situations—personal, work, community—and I am so very grateful for all I’ve learned with you. Hope we can see each other again soon!
Note that the names have been changed to preserve anonymity.