A place to call home: Everybody Reads, Evicted and a personal story

Genesis had lived in Portland most her life until she moved to the East Coast to be closer to family. “New York City was okay until one day it was not,” she recalls. That’s when she decided to come back to the familiarity of Portland; however, the city she once knew had changed, making it almost impossible for a single mother with three children to find a place to call home.

From the beginning she knew things would be challenging. “Settling-in is never easy, especially if you have a restricted budget, but who knew finding a modest apartment would become an ordeal that would make me homeless,” she says. “The first month went fast,” she notes. Having to double up with a friend, she managed to make it through the first four weeks, but after her friend’s complex manager found out there were more than the allowed number of renters in the two bedroom apartment, Genesis found she had no place to go. Despite the uncertainty that not finding affordable housing implied, Genesis managed to find work at IRCO as an on-call Spanish interpreter. How did she do it? That’s where her survival skills came in. She knew Multnomah County Library was a safe place for her and her three children. In fact, it became, as she calls it “a personal office,” where she could use the computer, the printer, photocopier, and scanner, tools she depends on to do her job. At first her children were loudly overly-stimulated by the iPads in the children's area. “It was hard,” she confesses.

Although employed, Genesis was still homeless, and had to spend many nights at the Human Solutions shelter on SE Stark and 160th. Each day, she tried very hard to come up with a routine for herself and her children. She would take one of her children to school and the other two to their sitter, just so she could come to the library and wait for the emails that would tell her where to go interpret. Then before going back to spend the night at the shelter, she would return to the library with her children to check email again, grab some books, and let her younger children play on the iPads. After getting in touch with the Department of Human Services, and having a somewhat steady job at IRCO, she applied for an apartment. The wait turned out to be an agony.

In one of her many days at the library, she picked out a copy of Evicted in the Lucky Day section. “As I was reading the book, I felt like it was my history being written,” she now says. I remember one time I saw her looking very distressed. It had been three weeks since she moved from the shelter to a motel, and Genesis did not know if she was going to be able to spend the night at the motel that evening. Her stipend money had run out. “I think I am going to sell my car and go back to New York. I am tired. I don't think I can keep trying.” This was a few days before Christmas.

When I saw her again after the holidays she looked rested and happy. The first thing she told me was how excited she was that she could finally cook, wash dishes, and take real showers. Genesis got her apartment on December 30th, which happens to be her birthday. She says she could not wait to start working and pay her bills. “I can’t believe the school bus is coming to an actual home address to pick up my daughter!” she exclaimed. As we were talking, she found herself staring at the Everybody Reads copies of Evicted. “One thing I would like is for the author to sign my copy of Evicted.” I encouraged her to join the Pageturners book group and participate in whichever other events she can attend that are part of this year’s Everybody Reads Program.