Marcus and Jennifer are expecting their first child together to be born Aug. 7. At a time when most expectant parents would be nesting and putting final touches on the baby’s room, the couple is praying to find a home for their family.
For more than a year, Marcus, Jennifer and Marcus’ three children, ages 9, 8 and 6, have been homeless, going back and forth between staying in hotels and in the living rooms of family or friends.
The couple expressed new optimism that they will soon find a home. Catholic Charities recently matched them with a Support Circle of 12 St. Francis parishioners who will walk with the family for a year, helping empower them to become more stable financially. Under the Support Circle program, the family qualifies for rental subsidies from the parish and from CASA.
“Things seem like they’re working out a little bit,” Marcus said. “Last week I was telling Jennifer faith and patience go a long way.” Marcus is soft-spoken and beams when he speaks of his children. Jennifer has a beautiful smile and long wavy hair. She looks tired and admits to being anxious about the upcoming birth and finding a home for the family. The couple met several years ago when both were working at a group home for people with developmental disabilities. Jennifer said she had no intention of being involved with a man with children but when she saw Marcus doing his daughters’ hair, she knew he was a keeper.
Support Circle members are working with the couple to find a home in Raleigh as soon as possible. Their ideal is a three-bedroom, two-bath home that has a fenced yard or a park nearby. The maximum rent they qualify for is $900 per month.
Not that long ago, Marcus and Jennifer thought life was going well. Marcus had finally been granted full custody of the children after their mother had failed to show that she could provide a stable home. Marcus had a full-time job and a part-time job and Jennifer also worked full time. They lived in a rented townhouse and owned two vehicles.
Then they both lost their jobs. Marcus and Jennifer had been working contract jobs helping with surveys at RTI. Contracts typically ranged from a couple of weeks to several months or longer. Normally, when one contract ended, they were offered a new contract fairly quickly But this time, the company had no work for them.
The couple ended up being evicted. Within a few months, their vehicles were repossessed. “With our income being less, we were pulling money from car payments to buy food,” Jennifer said. Marcus said that when his pickup truck was repossessed, he almost didn’t care. He had stopped driving it because it cost him $50 per day in gas to fill it up, as his job doing commercial installations often required him to travel long distances.
The couple’s precarious finances were hit further when they moved from Johnston County to Wake County and their food stamps, which provided $560 worth of food per month, didn’t transfer. Jennifer said they went six months without food stamps. They were one of thousands of families affected by recent well-publicized bureaucratic backlogs in the state Department of Health and Human Services’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Marcus has been determined to keep what stability he can in the lives of his three children and has been driving them daily to the charter school that they attend. The family loves being outdoors and music of all kinds. Last month, the children’s grandmother took them on an outing to Myrtle Beach, their favorite beach. Z., 9, said she likes candy, ice cream, and walking along the boardwalk. A., 6, said shyly that he likes seashells.
Update: Jennifer gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Zyan, on Aug. 14.