Most people’s perception may be that homeless families are headed by unemployed parents—but as the story of single mom and teacher Angela Curry proved, that’s far from the case.
Curry and her two children had been unable to live independently for some time on her $36,000 annual salary as a teacher, as reported by Fox News 35. She was profiled as a part of the initiative to show Americans the “true” face of homelessness—which, for the majority of Americans without a stable roof over their heads, isn’t due to a lack of employment or mental stability.
And Curry and her children weren’t out on the streets, which would have made national headlines.
They were, however, living with one of her friends and unable to scrape together enough to get ahead and make payments necessary to move into independent housing, so they were technically homeless.
Although Curry’s salary falls under the “low-income” qualification for Section 8 housing requirements, people in her position are given last priority under housing assistance—and there’s often a long waiting list.
The average 2-bedroom apartment in Orlando (where Curry and her children live) costs around $1,200 a month, meaning families such as hers need close to $3,600 in up-front cash to even move in to a new place unfurnished.
“I’m lucky to live with my friend,” she explained to Fox News, “but if that were not the case, I would be teaching children—then going home to live in my car.”
Curry was taking home about $36,000 as a 13-year teaching veteran.
That didn’t cut it when her boyfriend left, forcing her to scramble for the mortgage payment on their home, daycare for the two children, and healthcare for the household. She ended up behind on her payments, foreclosed on the home she’d been so proud to own, and ended up living with a friend while she pondered her options.
Curry broke the news of her housing situation at an October 2013 school board meeting, forced to admit what few Americans consider as a reality when she was asked to state her address on the record for a teacher’s union proposal.
People had been astonished that she was in the situation she was. “You don’t look like, you know, what a homeless family looks like,” she explained hearing time and time again, as people realized their perceptions of homelessness were far from the truth.
Although she’d received some negative responses from telling her story—people who didn’t believe she was unable to make ends meet, forgetting the difference in circumstances every American family faces—the Southern Affordable Services came through with an offer.
SAS is an organization that works to transition homeless families to stable housing situations once again, using steeply discounted rates and assistance plans to give them an initial boost and get back on their feet. They’ve helped 452 families and counting with the transition from homelessness to security, and don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
Curry’s family is one of those that they helped.
“To accept help,” she admitted, “was difficult. But then I had to look at the big picture.”
They moved into their own place in the spring, and SAS helped them stay on top of payments until Curry’s paycheck was able to line up with her rent. She’s now happy with her head above water, and she hopes to stay that way for good.
It’s not an easy thing, as a fully employed member of society, to admit that things are getting out of your reach in terms of food and housing. But as Curry shows, sometimes all that you need is a little extra help getting back on your feet—which really part of the American dream, after all.