On the floor of the shelter, in a corner by the windows, sits Brittany and her two babies. Her youngest babbles next to her while he attempts to crawl. Her older son sits in her lap while she patiently wipes peanut butter from his fingers.
Her warmth and kindness makes entering her corner feel like entering a home.
Brittany’s story is not a typical one of becoming homeless, as if there were such a thing.
It wasn’t because of drugs or alcohol, and neither was it because of laziness. Her impeccable ability to nurture her children was evidence of that. So how then, did someone like Brittany get to a place like this?
“All they see is eviction,” she says.
Her husband folds laundry on a couch nearby. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Whitworth and held a job there afterwards. He was also a decorated soldier in the Army. They paid their rent through his VA checks.
She adjusts her baby in her arms to nurse him. Throughout our conversation, Brittany welcomes interruptions from her own children or from others running around the shelter. She pauses to answer their questions or acknowledge a toy brought to her.
Brittany shares that their landlord stopped accepting the monthly VA check. They weren’t given a reason, nor much notice. All this when she was due for her second baby in two days.
She says of the experience, “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.”
She shrugs as I stare at her in disbelief. This is a mother who would have finished her last quarter of college if her fibromyalgia hadn’t flared up on top of raising two kids and working two jobs. I ask how her landlord could decline the VA check, and she answers, “No reason. No reason. It’s all they had to say.”
Although I already know the answer, I ask why their search for a new home has not been successful. “All they see is eviction,” she reiterates.
Brittany continues, “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 ask Brittany how experiencing homelessness has changed her perspective on the issue: “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.”
Brittany and her family moved into permanent housing of their own in late 2019.