On the Cusp of Homelessness

Sarah and her husband, Doug, worked hard. While they earned just above minimum wage, they could barely pay the rent, utilities, food, student loans, car payments, car insurance and after-school child care.

The couple scrimped to get by. They turned off lights when not in use, put off car repairs, and kept the heat down in their home.

Unable to afford health insurance, they missed routine doctor and dental visits. Sarah stopped regular mammogram and cancer screenings.

When the heater broke in Doug’s car, they wrapped their two young children in blankets to keep them warm on the drive to school.

Then catastrophe struck. It was the type of crisis that can plunge many struggling, hard-working families to the brink of homelessness.

Doug got laid off. Soon after, their youngest child came down with severe bronchitis that required a trip to the clinic and antibiotics. Cold weather set in; their heating costs spiked. They quickly fell behind on their rent, struggled to pay the electric bill, and feed their children.

Sarah worried: “What about next month? How do I tell my child we can’t afford to buy her a birthday present? How do I explain that warm shoes come first and my son’s eyeglasses will have to be put off for a while?”

Children living in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school, and they have worse educational outcomes overall; one study found that living in a high-poverty neighborhood is equivalent to missing a year of school. – Carsey School of Public Policy

This loving family lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Sarah was grateful for the roof over their heads. But she dreamed of a time when she only had to work one job, had reliable transportation, more time to be with her children, and the money to better care of them. She longed for the day when the whole family could sit down to dinner together.

Then, the day Sarah feared most came. Their landlord threatened to evict them if they didn’t pay the rent.

A friend suggested Sarah contact Catholic Charities New Hampshire. With 10 district offices, there was one close by and the staff would know how to help. Sarah did.

A CCNH outreach worker listened to the couple’s issues and needs. Together, they created a Life Plan. A mediator was brought in to work with the landlord to determine how to pay the back rent.

The young family got help with their electric bill. Doug enrolled in the CCNH Financial Fitness Program, and learned the best ways to track the family’s spending, how to budget, and plan for unforeseen expenses.

“Personal advocacy and commitment of time to our clients is what sets Catholic Charities NH apart. We offer respect to each family’s situation. We walk with people through their journey and give them the dignity that is deserved. This is what makes our set of services more unique than a social service agency,” said Marc Cousineau, CCNH’s Director of Parish and Community Services.

Like many people who find themselves on the cusp of homelessness, Doug and Sarah are hard-working people struggling to make ends meet. In their case, a layoff and illness pushed them to the edge of financial ruin. But it can be a combination of countless events that can bring people to the verge of homelessness: medical bills, domestic violence, a job loss, inability to fix their car, even day care.

Sarah and her family are on better footing now.

“We were one month away from living in the car. Catholic Charities turned us around. My gratitude cannot be measured,” Sarah said.

If you, or a family you know, are struggling, CCNH can help. Call 603-669-3030 or or visit https://www.cc-nh.org/services/community-services-assistance/.