Homeless family puts down roots

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Part Four of the VPR Series "Living Without a Home: Meghann Cline’s Story"

(Host) April has brought some much needed good news for one Burlington family.

VPR News has been following the story of Meghann Cline and her 3 children, who’ve been homeless since last summer.

When we last checked in, they had used up their time at a family shelter, and were about to move to a hotel – a situation that scared Meghann:

(Meghann Cline) " Yeah, I am… I AM scared…(and)  I don’t know what the back up plan is…"

(Host) Meghann Cline and her family moved into the hotel in January, and that’s where VPR’s Lynne McCrea picks up the story…

(McCrea) It’s dinnertime, and Meghann Cline is in the hotel room’s tiny kitchenette. She’s holding her baby in one arm, and stirring pasta with the other…

(Cline) "Crowded… hectic… A lot of work goes into the daily routines- a lot more than normal – everything from getting groceries to bedtime – don’t have space for them to have space- so it makes it a lot harder for the kids to pitch in – to find their things…

(Sound of bus)

For 10 weeks, she shuttled between appointments at Economic Services and the Burlington Housing Authority, and with her contacts at the COTS family shelter…

(Cline) It’s quite a system to try to understand – it can be difficult – especially coming from a place of powerlessness, and there’s shame about homelessness – all sorts of barriers to getting help.

(At BHA) "Hi – I’m here to see Liz Whitmore…"

I have a few things in my favor-I read really well. And I speak fairly well. And I’ve learned to become a good advocate for our family. And I’ve learned to push past being uncomfortable, or embarrassed and I do wonder how other people get what they need…"

(McCrea) Meghann is the first to say she’s made some bad choices in her life.

(Cline) I dropped out of school in 8th grade. And proceeded from there to a bad relationship… and had a baby really young".

(McCrea) Then, a year ago, Meghann says she and her husband, Robert, lost most of their assets when they moved out West for a job that didn’t work out.

Months later, the stress of being homeless took a toll on their relationship. Meghann separated from Robert, and set out to find housing on her own.

She pinned her hopes on federally subsidized housing, and a voucher that’s specifically for people who are homeless. 

But timing is everything, because the vouchers are offered only rarely and sporadically… and only to people who are working with local agencies like the Burlington Housing Authority.

(Cline at BHA) "I really appreciate your talking to them…"

(Cline) They needed documents from me – and it took me a while to get birth certificates rounded up, and then I had the wrong benefit statement from social security- it was last years, so I had to get a projected statement. So, it’s a process…

(McCrea) In March, Meghann got the news-she had received the Section 8, subsidized housing.

(Troy) – "Can I unlock the door?" (Landlady)"Are you excited about your new apartment?"

(McCrea) Within a week, Meghann lined up an apartment in Burlington’s North End, and moved in in early April. Since then, she hasn’t wasted any time, and is planning for a more stable life ahead…

(Freed) "How are you! (Cline) I’m good!

(McCrea) Today, she’s back at the housing authority talking with Rhonda Freed, who coordinates the Family Self-Sufficiency Program…

(Freed)"You don’t have your G.E.D.? (Cline)  I DO… Okay, so you’re ready for CCV or something like that…"

(McCrea) Meghann has some big dreams. And some challenges, too. She doesn’t have a phone, or a car, for instance. And she worries about how this past year has been for her 9 year old son, Troy.

(Cline) "I worry about it a little bit – the unstableness. But I tend to try to look at it as more of an interesting experience, than a negative one. Being in shelter, he got to see many different kinds of families. I think he feels blessed by our family- he feels luckier, in some senses… And we talked a lot about the world, and how lucky we ARE, that there was a place for us to go, we never went hungry – he’s very aware of that. … I do worry-like I’ve seen little bits of hoarding behavior – there’s signs that not having his own space has made him stressed out – just not sure what the long-term effects will be….

(Cline, in kitchen: "Want to help make something to eat?")

Everything’s running so much smoother now – our diet is back to being able to make wholesome meals for the kids…

("Bring your chair over – Would you cut up some bok choy for me?")

Christopher, my 2 year old, is back to his routines…

(Cline, singing)

(McCrea) Some of the routines are returning for Meghann, too. She’s back to singing lullabies to her kids… and she’s getting started on a garden with Troy…

(Troy, in backyard) "Mom, should we put in the hole first? (Cline)Dig the hole, and you want to loosen the soil, so the roots can penetrate…

(McCrea) What’s most important to Meghann now, is that she’s able to put down roots here – and, as she puts it, "to be of use".

(Cline) An old woman I knew as a teenager taught me that phrase – about how important it is to be of use. And I’ve realized that the need to be of use is right up there with shelter, and food and love…You know, the need to make a difference, and the need to support what you believe in and to be useful in the community is really huge. And now I can be more proactive than reactive… it means a lot to me. It feels really great".

(Sound of patting down the soil) "There…"

(McCrea)  Meghann Cline heads back – in to this home of her own. And she hopes for many growing seasons ahead.

For VPR news, I’m Lynne McCrea.


Return to Part Three: The search continues

Explore the entire 4 part VPR Series "Living Without a Home: Meghann Cline’s Story"


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