My Year Facing Homelessness: A Legal Clinic Client Tells His Story

*Check out Antonio Gibson on NPR talking about his experience with homelessness on Dec. 25, 2010*

By Antonio Gibson, Former Legal Clinic Client

Once a two parent household, myself and the mother of my children both had pretty substantial jobs. She would later be laid off from Bank of America in August, 2008. I then had no choice but to try to make my 1200.00 monthly income cover an eight hundred dollar rent along with other living expensive. After a year long effort I then found myself alone and facing eviction October, 2009. After unsuccessful attempts to contact organizations that help to prevent evictions and homelessness, I soon woke up to marshals at my door Nov15, 2009 to carry out the eviction. My remaining bank savings and work income would be garnished on storage and consistent nights in Motel 6. Being alone with two children in this very unusual living status made me overly depressed and I found myself not going to work to later be fired.

On October 1, 2010 I finally spoke with someone who had information about two programs that could possibly help someone in my condition. Being a homeless, single father at the time, I was sleeping in my car with my two children at this point. I was in a position where I was looking for anyone or anything to help me so it was vital that I respond immediately to any help being offered. I called LIFT, a program that has contact to all government organizations in the District area for homeless individuals in need. They allowed me to make an appointment for Monday, October 4. I then called the second number which was to the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. I spoke with someone who asked of my situation and they immediately started calling programs I had already been to in order to find out why we had not received services yet. My children and I had been awaiting shelter from Virginia Williams, which is the headquarters of all shelters in the D.C. area as of July 1, 2010. In addition, I’d already had an orientation in late July at the Housing Authority for HUD living. Though the worker from the Legal Clinic was not able to get in touch with anyone at either organization, I was set to meet with LIFT that Monday whom I was told would place me and my family the same day.

With the feeling of rejection and failure again I later got another call back from the Legal Clinic who had contacted a church that was willing to donate a hotel fee so that we would not sleep in the car that weekend. Sadly, I was financially unable to get to them or the hotel, so I pushed through until Monday when hopefully LIFT would come through. After a six hour visit we found that all emergency shelters go through Virginia Williams, which hadn’t offered any results after four months, so I left their office feeling worse than I’d felt this whole year while homeless. Wanting to give up on life, being a father, and all, I looked down the street and was D.C. Housing. Although I had to be somewhere else in 20 minutes, something told me to stop in and see why I received a letter saying my name was returned to the waiting list. Half an hour from their closing, I spoke to a gentlemen who recognized me and my kids. With tears in my eyes he asked, “What’s going on man, everything okay?” I explained everything to him and he replied, “We sent you a letter, I mailed them out September 25. There is an apartment for you.” Overjoyed by his words, I told him I never got a letter to view an apartment and he informed me it wasn’t too late if I could go down and see it. I zoomed down to Southwest D.C. and the apartment manager showed me a spacious three-bedroom. She told me I could move in when I had the security deposit and prorated rent which, amazingly, only equaled $162.00. I was happy, but sad that I had no money to move in the next day.

Receiving a call from the Legal Clinic worker, I told her of all that was happening and she surprisingly felt my joy and pain. She then said, “Wait, why don’t we use the money that was given to us for your hotel as your security deposit instead!”

To make a long story short, I’m now in my apartment after a year of being on the streets. When I reached the cliff of my life, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless was there to grab me. I now know that “Ideas don’t work unless you do!!”

Special thanks to Marta Beresin and all who were there to help us.

About Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless envisions a just and inclusive community for all residents of the District of Columbia, where housing is a human right and where every individual and family has equal access to the resources they need to thrive. Our mission is to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. Combining community lawyering and advocacy to achieve our clients’ goals, our expert staff and network of volunteer attorneys provide low barrier, comprehensive legal services at intake sites throughout the District of Columbia, helping our clients to access housing, shelter, and life-saving services. Rooted in the experiences of this client work, we effectively blend system reform efforts, policy advocacy, community education and client engagement to advocate for long term improvements in local and federal programs that serve the low- and no-income community.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to My Year Facing Homelessness: A Legal Clinic Client Tells His Story

  1. Edward Hoyt says:

    Hooray, Antonio. You’re a hero for not quitting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s