Candance or Kandy has been volunteering on and off for 19 years. She started volunteering initially as a way of receiving support for food. She started originally as a client, getting a meal but she realized if she stayed and volunteered she would get some food to bring home too. They often offer items like clothes, toiletries and personal items if you help. Now she is living with an old family friend, they have an agreement that she always makes sure the house is full of food and she can stay there. She said, “I know it is a short term solution” but it was the “pluses and minuses creating a solution” to sustain herself and her family. This takes most of her time, going to volunteer and get a few things here or there and going around town to pick up a bag at different pantries. “Volunteering has become my lifeline.”
The plus, minus system has been a strategy and resilience to this cycle of poverty. When she would end up on the street, her strategy was to go to sleep early, when it was still light outside so she would not be a part of the drugging going on. She wanted to be productive the next day and this was the only way to do it. Another time she went to a shelter, as part of the requirements to get a job after, she got a place to stay week to week because she could not pay the security deposit on an apartment. With the higher week to week cost, she would come home and not have money to pay for food and because of the job not have the time it takes to go from pantry to pantry picking up the food she would need.
She told me of a time before her life was like this, she had a family and kids, she was a telephone operator. Now Kandy can’t imagine trying to walk into an office environment. Even minimum wage jobs tend to not do well, “they only want to hire kids because they know how to use the computer” she gave me an example, “pretty recently I tried to get a job close to my house. This was something I had to think about because I would be working after the bus stopped running.” The experience was horrible, she could not learn the computer fast enough, quickly her schedule was dropped to one day a week compared to three. The day she was there was really stressful, she did not know what to do. She knows that she should have gone to a computer class years ago but she feels a lot of fear about trying that. Finding herself resourceless, familyless, and jobless. She had to find a way to live. Volunteering for the caring kitchen for 10 years has been that way. She knows she has been stuck for a long time but she is 56 and things are getting harder, in the meantime she has had to find independence and support herself.
Right now her biggest hope would be able to work as an electrician. The family friend she lives with is a JourneyMan and all his fellow employees are too. The trouble is she would have to get 5000 hours with a master electrician. She has recently been filling a lot of her time with studying about this because it is really interesting to her. Since she can’t start with a master electrician at her age, she hopes that she can go apply at Home Depot, work in this department specifically. See how it goes. In the future, when she is back on her feet, she can see her experience serving to tell about what the experience of homelessness can be like. She has seen the social services world from both sides. She has learned what can create resiliency. It is having a firm foundation.