Walking the Edge of Homelessness

-Six Cheques Before I’m Homeless-

As a single mom I am, sadly, one of a growing trend. There was no dramatic exit, no abuse, just a lack of love and an agreement to separate. But, likeCrystal Carswell many, this decision put me in a position of financial instability. As a woman in a partnership, I had made  choices to put my son before my career. I had turned down promotions or job opportunities that would have meant less time with my child, secure in the understanding that my husband and I were making the right choices together for our family. Unfortunately, when the ‘together’ ends, the only things left are the choices.

When I consider my life, I am so grateful for my support system and the opportunities it has allowed me to pursue. My mother moved in with us, and shares not only the bills, but the child care. My son’s father is very generous with his time and money. But, what always sits in the back of my mind, eroding my happiness, is the image of my life as a see-saw;  my ex on one end, my mother on the other, and the knowledge that all it would take to lose my stability is losing one of them. Realizing that you do not have the ability to support your son alone is a humbling and eye-opening revelation.

That fear was always an abstract idea before I came to work for the YWCA; the shadows that surrounded an impulse buy, or the twinge I felt at Christmas when I drove up my credit card balance. Meeting these women, and listening to their stories, has made me realize that the only thing that separates us, in many cases, is my good fortune and that see-saw.

When I sat down to consider how many pay cheques I could actually do without before I would be homeless, I came up with the number six. That’s two and a half months for me. Two and a half months before the debt would out-weigh my ability to pay. Two and a half months before people could stop seeing me as a person and start seeing me as a cautionary tale.

We are all these women. Separated by a little time or distance perhaps, but if you look closely enough you’ll see yourself reflected.

What’s your number?

6 thoughts on “Walking the Edge of Homelessness

  1. When I planned to go back to grad school last September, I didn’t think I would have to go it alone. Married for ten years, I planned with my partner that I would return to school full-time and she would continue to work full-time to support us. Three months before I started school, my marriage ended. I am now a full-time student with scholarships and part-time work as sources of income. If I missed more than two paycheques, I would be homeless. That’s one month.

    What’s your number?

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Jess.This is exactly the point I was trying to make. Articulate, educated women can find themselves in circumstances they couldn’t foresee. These women could be anyone.

  2. I took out a student line of credit to pay for my university costs. I was unable to get OSAP because my parents made too much money (even though they weren’t paying for my education), and I could only get the student loan through the bank if my parents co-signed.

    So, right now, if I missed a paycheque or two, I would have my line of credit to fall back on. You may think that’s pretty great, and it is, but only because my parents agreed to co-sign. If they didn’t co-sign, I wouldn’t have gotten the loan, and I wouldn’t have been able to go to school. Who knows if I would have a job, and if I did it would probably be part time and minimum wage. I think if I lost those pay cheques, it would only take 1 to put me on the street.

    If I didn’t have my parents, I would be homeless. If they didn’t let me live there after school rent free and co-sign my loan, who knows where I would be. I definitely wouldn’t be living where I’m living now. I’m extremely thankful for my parents and know that if I didn’t have that support my life would be drastically different.

    1. Thank you Dana! Students certainly seem to be at a disadvantage these days. University was always sold as the way to a better life, and instead many are having to go further into debt to obtain a ‘practical’ education for a job via a college.

      *Many of us have these tales of walking the edge…so please let us know…what’s YOUR number?*

  3. I started over after leaving an abusive relationship. My child & I left our home, our city, and most of our belongings. I left my job as well- I had no choice. Friends kept us from being homeless. Once I got my own place again we were always one paycheque away from loosing it all over again. Even now years later, happily re-married- both of us with full time jobs it’s a struggle to stay on top. With debt I acquired back when things were tough, plus students loans which I only recently had the ability to start paying it’s a constant battle to climb out of the hole poverty created. My number is scary to think about- if we lost only one of our incomes- I don’t think we’d make it much past a month, maybe 2 …but that hole of debt would just get deeper, making it that much harder to get back up on your feet again. What’s your number?

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your number. The more people I speak to, the more I realize how lucky I am to have some savings to fall back on, to push my number a little higher. The debt that so many of us live with every day brings us all a little closer to that edge. Even with full-time positions, like your family, there are no guarantees.

      *What’s YOUR number?*

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