Homeless woman struggles to find a permanent place to live

 

Katrina Stubbs, single and college educated, found that government agencies and nonprofits are often geared to help homeless people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol or have medical issues. But if you’re not an addict and you’re healthy and seeking full-time work, as she is, help can be hard to come by. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — There are times when Katrina Stubbs looks at the world around her and just shakes her head.

Here, she has been working since the age of 14 and suddenly found herself in a dire homeless situation, while she sees other homeless people who are facing drug and alcohol addiction receive help and then are directed to a place to live.

Through it all, Ms. Stubbs, a 45-year-old native of Dover, said she never lets it drag her down. She presses on through her faith in God and her desire to help others.

“I am extremely blessed,” she said. “For me, personally, because I don’t have children, I’m not a vet, there’s no mental disorder, I’m not dealing with drugs, I’m not dealing with alcohol, I’m not coming out of foster care and I’m not coming out of prison, so there’s nothing for me.

“I’m, quote-unquote, able-bodied. Well, I know I’m able-bodied. I’ve been looking for work … I want to work. Literally everything that’s out there for employment I’ve been connected to. There are just no resources available for women like myself.”

Ms. Stubbs has bounced around from friends’ houses, to Code Purple shelters, to the cold of the streets since last December.

However, Dover City Councilman Brian Lewis heard about her journey when she spoke before a city council meeting three weeks ago and knew he had to try to help her.

After all, Ms. Stubbs is trying the best she can to keep her head above water. She has a part-time retail job and has been a substitute teacher in the Capital School District since last September.

She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Wilmington University is 2001.

“What struck me about Ms. Stubbs was her enthusiasm to find work, find shelter and contribute to society,” Mr. Lewis said. “Ms. Stubbs has a college degree and has taught as a substitute.

“Despite her many obstacles in life and being homeless she is so thankful for the smallest of things that many of us take for granted, like a place to rest our head at night, food on our table, a job and to contribute to society.”

Down since 9/11

The value of hard work was instilled in Ms. Stubbs when she was raised by her grandparents. When they passed away she went to live with her mom.

She started working at the age of 14 and while in high school became the assistant manager at A&W Hot Dogs and More at the Dover Mall.

Ms. Stubbs eventually worked her way into the banking industry. She was employed by MBNA America and the Bank of New York — and then Sept. 11, 2001 happened.

“After the 9/11 tragedy happened I wasn’t able to get a job,” she said after being laid off. “I had just purchased a brand-new car and I was frantically looking for a job.

“I wasn’t able to find anything here and I was willing to commute two to three hours just so I could get a job and then eventually move there.”

For Ms. Stubbs, finding a full-time permanent position proved futile, and remains so even today.

So she moved to Columbus, Ohio, after her father asked her to try to find a career opportunity there.

While she was still unable to find a full-time permanent job, she did find another passion – helping others.

“I fell in love with World Harvest Ministry and we did things in the community every day,” said Ms. Stubbs. “We were reaching out to those in need, those that were on drugs, those that were low-income and I was involved in just about every ministry – the van ministry, kitchen ministry, clothing ministry. I always had a heart to serve and still do.”

Yet, all she was able to find were different temporary positions here and there or a long-term temp position that she thought might lead to full-time, but something would always seem to happen and the company would have to downsize.

Ms. Stubbs left Columbus after five years and moved to Chesterfield, Missouri, on the outskirts of St. Louis, on the advice of friends.

Once again, a one-year temporary job with a major non-profit organization ended after a year-and-a-half as the company “began to phase out a lot of positions in their organization.”

Coming home

She attempted to return to college in Missouri in hopes of earning a second Bachelor’s Degree, one in psychology but didn’t fare well in the graduate program.

“I wanted to sit with people one-on-one and maybe council them,” Ms. Stubbs said.

“Last year, around Easter time, I came back home (to Dover) and was staying with some loved ones, some friends, and I put an ad on Craig’s List,” she said. “I said I was looking for a room in exchange for some services around the house.

“This gentleman called me and wanted me to help him with his wife while he was at work, which was perfect. The home was nice and clean, they treated me very well, and I didn’t have any complaints, but then she suddenly passed.”

It was then back to square one as the relentless search for elusive full-time employment continued for Ms. Stubbs, as she looked for jobs with the Department of Labor, Delaware Wonder and whatever other job resources she could find.

It was right around Christmas last year when she found herself checking into a Code Purple shelter.

The former banking industry worker had been renting rooms here and there and staying with friends and a family member in the city.

However, now she found herself living among Dover’s homeless population.

A bed at People’s Place, a facility in Dover run by Whatcoat Social Services, opened up and she was able to live there for a month.

“After the 30 days, the house leader wouldn’t extend my time,” Ms. Stubbs said. “She said she couldn’t extend my time unless I had a definite date to move into an apartment.

“I said, ‘Well, what am I supposed to do?’ And she said, ‘Katrina, you’ll find something.’ I was like, ‘I’m here in a shelter. This is my last resort.’”

She noted that a one-bedroom apartment in a decent area in Dover runs around $700 to $800 per month, so without a boyfriend or a husband, that’s a huge bill to pay.

“If you’re single and you have no one to help or assist you then that’s a lot of money,” she said.

Help arrives at last

At the urging of Rev. Robert D. Appling, Ms. Stubbs reluctantly decided to speak about her homelessness during the public forum prior to the Dover City Council meeting on March 13.

That’s when Councilman Lewis was moved about her story regarding her succession of misfortune when it comes to jobs and her unbelievable journey.

Dealing with the homeless was nothing new to Mr. Lewis. After all, he drives around Dover with blankets and bottles of water in the trunk of his car just in case somebody needs them.

“Some people don’t understand that when someone is low, it can be hard for them to look up,” Councilman Lewis said. “I have always been a firm believer that our primary purpose in life is to help people and if we can’t help them, let’s not hurt them.

“As a local leader, I believe it is our responsibility to meet the needs of all citizens. If we believe in God and in ourselves we can move forward as a city. We just need to remember who we are, the most blessed, the most creative, the freest and most optimistic people on the face of this earth.”

Mr. Lewis personally went to the Shepherd’s Place shelter in Dover and told officials there of Ms. Stubbs’ dire situation. He played a voice mail she had left on their machine saying that she needed a bed.

Mr. Lewis insisted that he didn’t want her at a motel because of all of the drug and prostitution activity. He felt she had too much potential to find herself in the middle of those situations.

Finally, two weeks ago, Ms. Stubbs received a place to stay.

“Councilman Lewis heard my story and he seemed really genuine and concerned and was really surprised at what was happening,” she said.

And every day, the search for that permanent full-time job – yet another home that she is in search of – continues.

Not giving up

Ms. Stubbs is an intelligent, well-spoken woman with a resume that shows experience in a lot of different industries.

But she still found herself homeless. Anyone can.

“The only thing that I can say is the root of my homelessness, because I’m not into drugs and I’m not into alcohol or anything like that, I would say for me personally it comes from not having a solid plan and having streams of income,” she said. “That way if my job was downsized I would have streams of income to fall back on.”

Ms. Stubbs has a background in the financial industry but said now her credit is so bad that she can’t go back into that industry.

“I’ve listened to the financial gurus, and been to the conferences and the workshops,” she said. “I know how to read a financial statement. Unfortunately, now my credit is so bad that I can’t go back into that industry. That’s the thing.”

So running around in what seems like an endless circle continues.

Ms. Stubbs still has her faith and the perseverance to keep chasing her dreams.

Some others have suggested that she should just ingest some drugs and the state will find a safe place for her to stay.

She’s having no part of that.

“I was like, ‘Lord, I’m standing on your word,’” Ms. Stubbs said. “It’s just really sad that all of our resources are going to people that are dealing with drugs and that behavior when someone like myself is actually out here trying to work, trying to do better – I’m paying taxes.

“But you can be assured that I won’t give up. I never have and I never will. With the Lord’s blessing, I will eventually find that full-time job.”

 

‘Homelessness: A Forum’ at Dover library all this month

 

DOVER — Jeanine Kleimo said the more information that can be shared regarding the plight of the homeless in Dover, the more opportunities there may be in helping to solve the issue.

Ms. Kleimo is one of the organizers of the “Homelessness: a Forum” program that is taking place at the Dover Public Library at 35 East Loockerman St. throughout the month of April.

Ms. Kleimo, executive director of Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing and board member of NCALL, the nonprofit affordable housing corporation based in Dover, said the forum is the result of a coalition of local community organizations, including: The League of Women Voters, Dover Chapter of The Links, Inc., NCALL Research/Restoring Central Dover and The Kent Ecumenical Food and Crisis Fund.

The first of four forums on homelessness took place on April 4 and was attended by nearly 60 people, including some who were homeless.

“We have different topics for each of the sessions and we just want people to be aware of the homeless situation and what resources people have and what we really lack or don’t have a sufficient supply of so that people will just be more aware,” Ms. Kleimo said.

She added that the purpose of the forums is to increase understanding on the part of the public about the homeless in the community and their need. The forums are open to the public and light refreshments will be provided.

The first program on April 4 was titled “Who Are the Homeless?” The session included a national speaker and formerly homeless person, along with local representatives of the homeless population.

“Some of the (homeless) elected to tell their story and some just chose to listen to the speakers and what they had to say,” Ms. Kleimo said.

Tuesday’s program is titled “What Resources Assist the Homeless?” Speakers will include local representatives of mental health, substance abuse and other non-housing resources who will provide information on their services and how they assist the homeless.

The third forum on April 18 will feature “Housing the Homeless,” at which local shelters and housing organizations will enlighten attendees about housing resources in the community and how these are accessed.

The final program, on April 25, is “Where Do We Go From Here?” This forum will include the presentation of the plan prepared by the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Homelessness and other ideas regarding potential solutions to the needs of the homeless in Dover.

For more information, call 736-7030.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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