July 19, 2003, was the day my dad said my family would have to move to St. Charles County with him or go to a shelter. I did not want to move to St. Charles County. My dad started crying after we finished packing up the kids and my stuff. I did not realize he was crying at first. As I prepared leave for Larry Rice’s shelter, He asked, me did I have any money?” I told him no. He gave me a hundred dollar bill. Then I headed to Larry Rice’s shelter, as I sat in the car in front of the shelter, I decide to leave St. Louis. I dropped off my library books and badge.
At first, I thought I would go to Memphis then I decided if the car makes it to Memphis to travel farther south to Atlanta. I bought a map on the way. I did not tell my daughters what I was thinking. We went to Pizza Hut in Illinois I was trying to take a short cut. I finally decide to use the road atlas I bought. When we got to Memphis, I had to stop for gas.
I liked Beale Street I thought I might want to come back it seem like ht nightlife in Memphis was good. The car started running hot when I got off the highway. As soon as I got back on it cooled off. I drove all night. I thought about sleeping at the rest stops a couple of times. I went the long route Memphis to Nashville and then to Huntsville almost to Birmingham and finally to Atlanta.
On the way through Alabama, I was thinking about the children of Israel in the wilderness. When I turned on the radio, they were talking about the story of Moses. I stopped at gas station. They had a pray request list, I asked could I put my name down. I wrote my name and homeless.
As I drove down interstate 20 and got closer to Atlanta, I told my daughter La Freda I’m not sure we are ready for Atlanta. She said, “better be”. We stopped at the Mc Donald’s near the Hamilton E Holmes Station. The girl gave me back my money by mistake. At first, I wanted to say something but I thought it was a God thing.
We went to find a public library with internet access so I could email to Louie. I also wanted to get the white pages an attempt to call all the Waltons and hope to contact Louie. The library was closed. I decided to try,and find a shelter. I thought church people would be able to direct me to a shelter. I stopped at an AME church and asked some people where the homeless shelter was. One lady told me go to Atlanta Union Mission. She asked why I was homeless I told her it was my fault. I had made some mistakes. Her reaction me made me not want to go to church.
I kept passing the Salvation Army while looking for the shelter. I decided it looked like a shelter. I told the kids I think that Salvation Army is a shelter. I went and asked a man was it a shelter. He told me it was. I explained to him my family was from Missouri and homeless. I asked him could we stay there. He told me he had to see. I prayed while I waited for him to come back. They accepted us on emergency basis a bed for seven days. Monday morning I set out to find the welfare office. I had to keep asking everybody including the police that acted as if they did not know what I was talking about. The next day Ms. Brown told me there was waiting list to get in the shelter and that we had been accepted in the family program and could stay for up to 1 year. We would have to leave every day from 7:00am to 3:30pm.
I drove to the one library I knew. I emailed my coworker and asked to them advised my former library employer I would no longer be coming to work that I had moved to Atlanta. I meet with Ms. Brown she told me about the Atlanta Day shelter that they had computers for internet use. When I arrived at the day shelter, I felt I had hit rock bottom. The women looked hopeless and it was so unorganized. I could not stay long it was too depressing.
I began to think about the conversation in the classroom in Kansas. I began to realize homeless people are to busy struggling to survive. At the shelter in St. Louis, the women did not look homeless or hopeless. La Freda started school our third day in Atlanta. In the office at school the staff was talking about, we were homeless. I began to feel the negative label coming on. I asked the family specialist at the shelter for school supplies. She told me they were waiting to receive them. I felt so horrible not being able to get my daughter’s school supplies. I got a voucher for the thrift store and got a stroller for La Joy and uniform pieces for my La Freda.
When we returned to the shelter there was a new family. A light skinned lady, named Pat with her son. I spoke to her. When I had come in a few days before nobody really talked to me. I wanted her to feel more welcomed than I had. I told Pat about Louie. She told me when she was younger she followed some man to Oklahoma they got together after she finally got on her feet. He had hurt her she really loved him.
We walked to CNN center to get some Mc Donald’s she brought my children and me happy meals. This youth church conference was there. This young man sat at the table, while Pat was in line getting the food. When she came back to the table she scared the guy away. He left his wallet. It had a twenty-dollar bill in it. We thought about keeping it and ran out of CNN center before he could come back. Pat said we probably should not and walked back in. I guess she really gave the person his wallet back. She said he looked shocked.
A day or so later she asked me for a ride across town to another shelter and offered me twenty dollars for gas. Being that I had not been in Atlanta for a week. I had no idea where Cobb County was. I did not realize I was taking her to the police station either. I didn\’t have any insurance or license plates on the car. We got directions from a man walking down the street. We went to Cobb County she needed to go the police station to be admitted to a domestic violence shelter. At the police station, I let the kids; her son and my oldest daughter get in the front seat. I drove around the corner to have the police get Pat’s stuff out the car. I was not thinking. The police stopped me. He told me something was wrong with my car. He told me about having the kids in the front set and not having the baby properly in her car seat. He said he would let me go. I did not have any license plates or insurance on the car.
I knew it was running hot. I wanted to stop and let the car cool down, but I was sacred of being stopped by the police. I did stop at the gas station and add some coolant. The engine blew on the highway a few miles from the shelter, this was my fifth day in Atlanta. I wanted to cry. I told God I do not have any thing and you are taking my car. God sent this woman name Peggy, I suspect she was drug addict because of the track marks. She tired to help me get my car started. When we realized we were not going to be able to get the car started. She told me to get everything out of the car and put it in her Jeep. She took us back to her apartment. She said she did not like to drive in downtown Atlanta but would have her boyfriend take us. She feed the girls some watermelon. At first, her boyfriend did not like us but La Freda talked to him in Spanish and then he seemed impressed. She told him to buy us dinner at Wendy’s and if we could not get back in the shelter to bring us back. He followed her instructions. I told him just get the kids something to eat he insisted I get something to eat too.