Between budgeting for gifts and coordinating travel, holiday to-do lists can be long and winding. For folks climbing out of homelessness, those to-do lists are longer, scarier, and much tougher to check off.
As part of KERA’s series One Crisis Away at the Holidays, one North Texas family says this year, the big gift is waking up Christmas morning in an apartment, instead of an extended stay hotel.
The Rosenheims lived a typical middle class life for years. Dave, a veteran who was treated for PTSD after he came back from the first Gulf War, built a well-paying career in aerospace. Belinda was a stay-at-home Mom. When Dave lost his job in 2012, the bottom fell out.
“The most amazing thing about this entire journey is the strength that Belinda has and the strength that my kids have,” he says.
Everything Falls Apart
The Rosenheims went from comfortable apartment living with money in the bank to a drained savings account and an eviction. Dave says life was tough for 14 year-old Allison and her 12 year-old twin brothers Tony and Ben; bouncing around from hotel to hotel.
“Lots of drugs. Lots of stealing and theft and making a living not necessarily in an honest way. And that goes on and on and on,” he says.
Spending the holidays in an extended stay hotel was grim. There was no place to hang the stockings. The only gifts the kids got were donated.
“There was no Christmas tree, there was no baking cookies. There was no Christmas dinner,” Dave says.
A Whole New Outlook
The Rosenheims used to worry about things like what American Girl doll Allison would find under the tree. Spending months at a time in hotel rooms changed Belinda’s priorities dramatically.
“The first one is feeding them. And the second one was saving them from being humiliated. I didn’t want them to stand out from everyone else,” she says. “I wanted them to fit in.”
Which meant trying to keep their clothes in decent shape, taking them to the library after school to use the computer, spending Saturday at the dollar theater.