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.

Room for Rent?

I didn’t hear much from Kurt after the incident with Blue Van Tenant, aside from a few texts that were clearly meant for someone else…named Bryn. The texts were nasty and accusatory, laden with profanity and grammatical errors so horrendous that even auto-correct couldn’t make sense of them. But the intentions were clear, even to me. They were meant to demean, hurt and belittle someone. At this point I still had no knowledge of a girlfriend, boyfriend or any other relationship of Kurt’s. As far as I knew, he was still just the hard-working, pleasant college student who had climbed the Uber ladder up to a dispatch job at a local limousine company. Apparently “college student” wasn’t my only false assumption.

Nasty texts aside, things remained pretty quiet at Roselawn, which is why I was caught off guard by Kurt’s “notice to move out thirty minutes ago” text that came at the beginning of November. It was perfectly crafted, detailing how clean and void of “holes or other damage” he had left the room. Not one grammatical error. Even “fiancé” and “pregnant” and “really short on money so please can I have my deposit back even though I’m leaving without a notice and haven’t paid the rent” were all spelled correctly. Four days after he moved out, he started asking to come back.

At first I thought he was following up to see if the room had been rented in hopes of getting some of his deposit back. I felt a little sorry that he hadn’t understood the 30 day notice requirement; many people choose to forget about that when it makes things more convenient for them. I assured him we had the room ready and listed for rent on the same evening he moved out and were actively showing it. “My relationship is pretty fucked (right now). If it doesn’t work out soon, I’ll need to move back in.”

In just four days, Kurt had gone from being the supportive father-to-be who wanted to take care of his family, to being so over his fiance’ and their unborn child that a rented room on Roselawn seemed as appealing as The Marriott. Which, apparently, he thought we were running. But he had been a decent tenant, he needed a place and we had a room. I told him he was welcome to move back in, as soon as he paid November’s rent and late fee. I also encouraged him to work things out with his Baby Mom Fiance’; and then I waited for his response. It must have taken some thought; it was January before I heard from him again.

Tiny Matters

Everyone has a story. Some parts of our story are mundane, littered with insignificant events, people and places that render no special meaning; they just are. But if we dig deep enough, we will find moments in our story, maybe entire chapters, that shape us into who and how we are today.

Somewhere in my mid-thirties I started to explore my story. I’d take little peeks here and there, and if I didn’t like what I saw, I’d slam that cover shut so quickly you’d lose a finger in the binding if you were close enough. Little by little, I began to uncover glimpses of truth that, for years I had chosen not to see. It was hard. Some of it was sad. Most of it scared the hell out of me. And so I ran from those truths, straight into a bottle of wine a few times a week. Sometimes two bottles and sometimes nightly. Then margaritas. Soon it was tequila with barely a few splashes of lime.

I knew I needed to quit but my want to wasn’t on board with that. And then all of a sudden my story took a plot turn. I got sober. I discovered my truths. It changed me and it’s still changing me. And so I’m sharing it, in hopes that a snippet or two might change you.

It all started with two drunks, a heroin addict and a tiny baby.

And tiny matters.