Broke, But Not Homeless

read the last post about kurt: Broke & Homeless

It didn’t take long for Kurt to get comfortable back in his rented room on Roselawn Avenue. He kept in touch frequently, mostly by text message. I assumed he and his pregnant fiancé, Bryn had called it quits, otherwise he wouldn’t have been homeless. I expected the old happy-go-lucky Kurt would resurface now that he’d been relieved of the premarital woes that seemed to have plagued his previous tenancy.

You know how we often say, “If there’s anything you need…” ? It’s kind of meant to be congenial from a distance, like saying “good morning” to a passing stranger, or “how are you?” to the Target cashier. You don’t intend to invite an ad hoc therapy session; you’re just being polite. Most people will smile and respond with something like, “I’m fine, how are you?” and probably not even wait to hear your reply. And~if you’re like most people~you’re okay with that. And~if you’re like most people~when someone, like say, the hotel desk clerk, says, “if you need anything…” you have that special little filter that stops you from trying to bum money from her. One would think this “filter” – often referred to as a boundary- would be especially sensitive in someone who had just been given a place to stay, a little bit of cash and some basic human kindness from a relative stranger.

From the start of Kurt Take Two, it was obvious he had found his assertive side, and it was ignorant to social cues. Much like the annoying kid in the neighborhood who never knows when to go home. It seemed that providing an opportunity for Kurt to get back on his feet came with price tags of entitlement and expectations, and I had unwittingly signed up to pay the freight.

Three days after he picked up his room keys, Kurt asked me for a “loan” of $150. He fessed up to losing his dispatch job (although he didn’t say when) and said he had just interviewed with Goodyear, which was “in the bag” just as soon as his drug test came back. In the meantime, he needed to “make some quick bank” until his first check rolled in so he could pay the rent he owed me. My loan would fund car insurance and gas so he could drive for Uber, which he had done prior to dispatching limos, so he was sure that would pan out, too. And everything he made “would be going right back to [me]”. He hated to ask; I had already done so much. But, he reminded me, I did say, “if you need anything…”

“And by the way, THANK YOU!” He had just found the $50 I stashed in his donation bag of canned goods. “You didn’t have to do that!” Oh hey; was there any way we could move the bed frame out of his room and get him a second twin mattress so he and pregnant Bryn could sleep comfortably together in the one-person room he rented but hadn’t paid for? And it was cold as hell in there! Could we come by and check the vents and maybe bring him a space heater? He was heading out right then to donate plasma (he didn’t know you could DO that!) for cash, but he would graciously postpone that if there was any way that I could meet up with him right now to make my $150 donation to Uber For Kurt.

I said yes. Yes. To loaning $150 to a relative stranger. I can still remember staring at my “Yes I can” text on my phone before hitting the send arrow. I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard, weighed the pros and cons, talked it over with Matt, and prayed about it before mindfully making the decision. But I didn’t. At the time, it honestly felt like the right thing to do, a no-brainer. We have much, Kurt had little. “Of they who are given much, much is expected.” So I said yes and The Bank of Vicki was established.

I really never questioned my decision to loan Kurt that money, which was almost exactly 11 months ago. Frankly, I had forgotten all about it until now. And while going through my notes to write this, my resounding thought has been, “What in the Hell were you thinking?”

Was it the right thing to do, a good decision? Or was it wrong? I’m still wrestling with that question, which is why it’s taken me two weeks to write less than 800 words. But I do know that one small decision set several people on a life-changing path to recovery, healing and forgiveness.

And grace. Incredible grace like I’ve never seen before.

Broke and Homeless

Christmas came and went without a peep from Kurt. Not even a card. Or a demeaning text meant for someone else. Assuming he was busy embracing impending fatherhood, I had pretty much forgotten all about him.

January in Ohio can be a tough time for filling vacant rentals. Those who haven’t spent every last dime on Christmas generally don’t want to move in the bitter cold and snow. Anyone who wants to is likely being evicted. Having a handful of vacant units to fill, I jumped into action when Kurt reached out on January 8. He was sleeping in his car and wanted to move in that night. He had $20 to his name, he said. At the time, we only had unfurnished rooms available. It was late in the evening and bitter cold outside, so I offered him an air mattress and told him he could come pick up the keys. I threw some spare sheets and blankets into the washer and waited for Kurt to respond, which he did…six days later. It must have been fate; by then we had another tenant who pulled a Kurt, moving out without notice from a furnished room at Roselawn. I asked him, “When do you want to pick up the keys?” Once again, I waited.

Most people would be irritated at this point. But I had a feeling there was more going on with Kurt; I was thinking mental illness and I was concerned for him and for his pregnant girlfriend. If my hunch was right, they needed some time apart. I tend to overthink. I also tend to think I can save the world, or at least some of us who live in it. So I reached out to Kurt the next day around 11:00 am. To my surprise, he said his girlfriend’s parents were helping them look for houses to rent so they could “live together as a family”. Great! I was encouraged to know he and his girlfriend had the support of her family; it gave Kurt and his situation some credibility in my eyes. But by 5:00 that evening, things had, once again…changed. His girlfriend and her parents had a “blow up argument” he said. They were staying with her sister for the night. He threw in that he was “broke” (again) but assured me he had a roof over his head, at least temporarily. Very temporarily, I learned the next day, when–you guessed it–Kurt was again ready to move back in.

This is where things got messy(er). Whether it was from my desire to help a soul in need, or simple desperation to fill a vacant unit (or maybe just be done with this), I’m still not clear. But I bent “The Rules”. I did not run a new background check and I did not verify his employment or income when he told me he was still working at the limo company. Had I done those things, I would have found that he’d been fired from that job in November; right around the time he made his split-second departure from Roselawn. Carelessly, I rented a unit to a tenant with no income and agreed to let him pay the rent and deposit later. When he got paid from the job that I didn’t know he no longer had. Lesson learned. Well, eventually.

Kurt had little money and apparently only the clothes in his car. So, along with his keys, I left a bag on my porch with some canned goods and pasta and a few warm blankets. And $50 of Christmas cash I’d been hoarding. Because I had everything I could ever need and more, and he was just down on his luck.

Perhaps it wasn’t so coincidental that a few days after moving back in to Roselawn, Kurt lost his job. At least that’s what he told me when, instead of contacting me as promised to make payment, he texted me asking to borrow money.