In a corner of the shelter, on the floor by the two windows, sits Brittany and her two babies. Her youngest babbles on the floor next to her while he attempts to crawl. Her older son sits in her lap while she patiently wipes peanut butter from his fingers.
Brittany and her son in the corner of Open Doors Emergency Shelter.
She welcomes me into her corner with warmth and kindness, as if this were her own home.
Brittany’s story is not the average one of becoming homeless—if there were such a thing as a recipe for it.
It wasn’t induced by drugs or alcohol. Her impeccable nature of nurturing her children in the midst of strangers, bed bugs, domestic violence, and substance abuse is profound and couldn’t be attributed to laziness. Her warm and genial personality begs the question: How did someone like you get to a place like this?
“All they see is eviction,” she says.
Her husband folds laundry on the couch nearby. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Whitworth University and held a job there afterwards. He was also a decorated soldier in the Army. Through his VA checks, they paid their rent on a home they had in Spokane to raise their boys.
She adjusts her baby in her arms to nurse him. Throughout our conversation, Brittany welcomes interruptions from her own children or the ones running around the shelter. She pauses to answer their questions or acknowledge the toy they brought her.
Brittany reading to her youngest son
Brittany shares that when the monthly VA check to pay rent was declined by their landlord, they weren’t given a reason or much notice, even with her being due for her second baby in two days.
“We had two days to try to figure out how to go to court so we went down to Center for Justice—that was on Thursday—we went into court, we didn’t fill out our paperwork absolutely perfectly, went in on Friday, and literally, we went in to be induced on Saturday, didn’t have any time to be able to do any work stuff… so I went in, got induced on Saturday and was discharged on Tuesday and had two hours to pack before the sheriff showed up… Brand new baby, just got out of the hospital, and came home with two hours to pack.”
There is frustration in her eyes that still flickers even if it has long been dealt with. She shrugs in a What can you do? way while I sat staring in disbelief. She is a mother who was one quarter away from graduating college, had not her fibromyalgia flared while raising two kids and working two jobs.
I asked her how her landlord got away with that. “No reason. No reason. It’s all they had to say,” she responded indifferently.
In my fight for justice though I knew its ending, I asked Brittany to tell me how their search for other homes hadn’t granted them favor. “All they see is eviction,” she reiterated. Brittany continued, “It’s a bummer that we’re always underestimated and there’s that stigma on homelessness. I’ve been on the other side. I’ve done it.”
I asked Brittany how homelessness has changed her perspective since being on the other side.
“What I think… is it’s just like when I became disabled [with fibromyalgia]. Before I was disabled, I thought anyone that ever said that they had pain… I was like, ‘Just take some ibuprofen like I do and you’ll be just fine.’ And in that way, my disability made me a better person. In this situation, now that we’ve lived it and now that we know it, now we can empathize and understand what everybody is going through and be able to make a difference.”
Written by Grace Wahlman
Interview on 6/25/19