· Bridge Out ·
Recently I posted a blog about a family who had been evicted from their home. I wondered about the short and long term consequences on children, especially to their psychological well-being.
One friend contacted me and recommended the book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. She told me about an active community group making a difference in this area.
Another friend called me and informed me that he and his family were evicted twice when he was a teenager. I’ll call him Daniel.
Like many people sliding into debt, Daniel recalled how his first eviction experience followed the divorce of his parents. That’s when his mother supported herself and three children by relying on tips from her job as a waitress.
Daniel understood the consequences of his mother not paying the bills because he remembers the times without utilities. This economic hardship was a secret the family kept from others because they were proud.
My adult friend, decades later, recalls when the utility bill finally got paid and the lights went on. “It was something to celebrate, to be joyous about; I was just so happy, but unfortunately she’d get behind on something else.”
Daniel’s family was evicted and what made it inconceivable to him was that it was initiated by his grandparents. To this day, it’s still hard for Daniel to comprehend.
To help keep the lights on and pay the rent, Daniel worked a lot as a young teen. But one day when he was home alone, asleep on his bed, he heard pounding on the door. It was a half-dozen deputy sheriffs.
The veteran police officers showed Daniel the paperwork and told him they were there to take all the property in the house. A moving van outside with the company name “Jones Storage” confirmed the seriousness of the legal papers.
This eviction happened in the days before instant communication. There wasn’t even a phone in the house for Daniel to use to call anyone. He was outnumbered and overwhelmed.
One officer told him to get his dog put up or they’d take the canine. Another officer interrogated Daniel about a “BRIDGE OUT” sign hanging on the bedroom wall.
How can an eviction like this not affect a person? When a child goes to school in the morning, are they wondering if they will return to the same home and personal possessions in the afternoon?
How much does a child blame a parent or parents when they lose their home? Parents are the adults who are supposed to make sense of the world, to protect children from bullies, bogeymen, and deputy sheriffs who enforce evictions.
Parents are also expected to provide a safe, caring environment; this means a home with food and unconditional parental love.
Daniel can’t tell me how much of who he is today is a result of living on the economic edge. He admits, “I don’t trust people,” and that, “I haven’t got rid of that anger, that hurt.”
The consequences of poverty overlap; it’s difficult to tell what outcome is the result of what event. Daniel’s mother remarried. She chose an abusive alcoholic. Daniel lived and worked in violent environments. Where is the cause and effect?
Daniel shares, “I haven’t been able to put down my guard.” He’ll never know what life would have been like to him if he had grown up in a “normal” environment.
He’s not giving up. He lives by these words: “You can make a change in your life. You can do better.” While he’s at it, he’s also helping his community as a seasoned volunteer, making a difference.
However, there are some days when he’s driving in Hutchinson on Monroe Street, north of 30th Avenue, when he looks to the west and he sees the inside of a residential garage. A “STOP” sign is mounted on the wall as a decoration.
It always brings back memories. It takes Daniel back to the day he was alone at home and heard pounding at the door.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!