Eviction during the winter? It happens. Even the threat of eviction can compound the pre-existing stress in a person’s life. For some people living in Minnesota, the reality is one of struggle and tremendous sacrifice just to maintain housing. We have a story of a young mother who experienced just that.
Gina moved to Minnesota for an opportunity to earn higher wages and make a fresh start with her seven-year-old daughter. As a single parent not knowing anyone in her new environment, it seemed invigorating at first to reinvent herself from scratch. However, the job she initially moved North for didn’t turn out as expected, leaving her to scramble for other opportunities so that she could pay her rent.
Gina decided to share her story with us to raise awareness of the reality some people face while trying to survive — especially around the services available that could have prevented much of the heartache and difficulties she experienced.
What was the series of events that led you to possibly face a winter eviction?
It was my first winter in Minnesota, and when my daughter and I left California, we took only what could fit in my old car. Moving was my only option, and it was way better than where I came from, but still filled with a sea of unknowns. I had paid a security deposit on an apartment I hadn’t seen in person before. I didn’t know anyone up there who could check it out for me. So, after driving several days to my new state and seeing the apartment, it was not the same as the photos online. I was panicking, but thankfully, there was another unit available immediately.
That first night, my daughter and I slept on the floor with the pile of clothes we had as our mattress. When the job I moved up there for became unreasonable considering distance and elementary school schedule with no emergency contact, I sought a new job and got hired for a lower amount, but I was desperate to earn something immediately since the move and apartment costs had eaten up what I had brought up there financially. I needed to make money fast enough to provide rent the following month. Things were tight. I found myself standing in line at a local food shelter, which made the difference between us starving or eating each night.
However, I needed much more help than I knew was available. I needed help with childcare, finances, winter clothes, school supplies, finding a better job, and especially my mental health. I was overwhelmed and trying to make the most of my new start. Unfortunately, my rent was getting paid late or in pieces that winter and my landlord threatened eviction.
What did you do after facing possible eviction?
Well, I was also seeing a doctor for a terrible sinus infection, and I mentioned how depressed I was feeling in general. After hearing my story, they wanted to put my child in a temporary foster home. But that’s when I decided to give my mother back in California temporary custody instead. I couldn’t imagine my daughter with anyone else but family.
So, sadly, I let my daughter leave my side and go back home with my mother across the country as I picked up a job cleaning motel rooms nights and weekends to make ends meet. I was able to avoid eviction until a better job finally turned up.
Eventually, when my new job felt secure enough, I brought my daughter back to Minnesota with me since the higher paying job made all the difference to our livelihood and overall stability. I was able to move us into a safer neighborhood in a quiet suburb, live in a beautiful townhouse, and have my daughter attend a much better school. Getting that one job made all the difference.
What would you like others to know?
Although I am tremendously grateful for eventually getting a much better job, I think my earlier experience moving up here would’ve been drastically better if I had made the right connections in the community and known about the services United Way provides. I think everyone needs to know what’s out there to help them get on their feet. I think so much mental and physical energy gets misplaced when you don’t know where to go for help, and eventually, depression will make you stop trying altogether.
But people don’t have to have my story. They can do better for themselves with awareness and getting connected with the right people and services that address issues involving lack of childcare, financial instability, parent support, mental health, etc.
Displaying Empathy Through Action
Thankfully, Gina’s story has a positive ending. But how many individuals and families are struggling each day experiencing similar difficulties? Raising awareness around our safety net services at United Way of Central Minnesota is crucial to our mission as an organization. Helping others is the right thing to do, and we do it without judgment. Everyone is on a journey, and we never know where they will end up or the impact that even the most seemingly small act of kindness can have on their future.
As the holiday season approaches, it is more important than ever to show sensitivity to the needs of those around you. Many families are only one medical emergency, job loss, or other unexpected setback away from experiencing personal hardship.
What are Safety Net Services?
Lacking access to just one foundational need often results in a domino effect, which negatively impacts a person’s health and quality of life. Unfortunately, many individuals find themselves living paycheck to paycheck with only the basics covered. Even when a person can access food, shelter, and transportation, all it takes is for one loose piece to have someone’s stability crumble.
United Way's safety net programs were developed to ensure that our community could meet their basic needs tonight, while working to create a better tomorrow for themselves and their families.
Safety Net Programs if You Need Help
If you are in need this winter or know of someone who needs assistance, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. We work with many programs to provide the safety net you need. We partner with the following programs to help people in our communities meet their basics needs:
- 211 Support
- Church of the Week — Place of Hope Ministries
- Club Meal Program & Healthy Habits — Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota
- CROSS Center Food Shelf — CROSS Center of Benton County
- Community Meal Program — Helping Hands Outreach
- Domus Transitional Housing — Catholic Charities
- Emergency Services Financial Assistance Program
- Emergency Shelter — Anna Marie’s Alliance
- Emergency Shelter and Food Pantry — The Salvation Army
- Energy Assistance
- Home Delivered Meals — St. Cloud Hospital
- Rivercrest — Center City Housing
- Senior Dining Meals on Wheels — Catholic Charities
- St. Cloud Area Crisis Nursery — Lutheran Social Services
- Supportive Housing for Youth (SHY) — Catholic Charities
- Youth House — Catholic Charities
How Can You Give Back?
Your contribution — either financially or through your time — is pivotal in meeting the needs of others this winter. Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Adopt-A-Family - Consider financially contributing towards a family in need
- Keisha’s Closet - Donate food, winter clothing, and personal care items
- Toys for Tots - Donate toys for local children in need
- United Way Volunteers - Volunteer with us!
There is always a way to give back when you have the heart to do so. If you don’t know exactly where to start, you can always contact United Way of Central Minnesota, and we’ll point you in the right direction and offer you the assistance you need to make an immediate change in someone’s life.
As we say goodbye to 2021 — we can end it knowing positive change is attainable for those who need it, and it’s made possible by those who take action.