Despite setbacks, homeless family focused on future

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Part One of the VPR Series "Living Without a Home: Meghann Cline’s Story"

(Host) Few of us know what it’s like to be homeless. In today’s world, the people who are homeless may be mothers, fathers … working people. This is the story of one of those families.

In the first of two reports, VPR’s Lynne McCrea takes us into the world of Meghann Cline.

(Cline) – Opens door: "I have one of the downstairs rooms… So, this is my humble abode…"

(McCrea) Meghann Cline and her children have been living in the COTS family shelter, in Burlington, since September.

(Cline) "You have to excuse me – today was laundry day. It’s all washed, but not all folded."

(McCrea) Her small room is nearly filled by a double bed with a single bunk overhead. In one corner there are stacks of clothing, and boots and boxes of food. The other corner is lined with children’s books.

Meghann describes herself as a self- taught, ‘lifelong learner’. She dropped out of school in the 8th grade. But she’s earned a G.E.D. and a nurse’s aide license.

Last month, Meghann was 9 months pregnant with her third child. She reflected on bringing a newborn baby to the shelter.

(Cline) "I feel some guilt – some Mommy guilt – I wish I’d made better choices… been more determined – (laugh) – as a teenager, been more goal oriented. And I feel like I’m behind where I should be or could be in life. And yet I’ve decided to have 3 kids. And I’m a wonderful mother. I love my children. I just wish I could offer them more."

(Hear sounds of Cline with infant)

(McCrea) It’s two weeks later, and Meghann Cline holds her newborn daughter in her arms. ("She’s doing great"…)
The baby’s name is Pax.

(Cline) "P-A-X, meaning peace in Latin. Good strong name with a sweet meaning."

(McCrea) Meghann also has two sons. Troy, who is nine, is from her first marriage. And Christopher is two.

(" I hear Christopher…")

(McCrea) Meghann’s husband, Robert, works in the building trades and he’s had steady work these past few months. But she says he doesn’t have a reliable car right now, so he’s staying with family in northern Vermont, so he can get rides to various job sites. For Meghann, the separation is difficult…

(Cline) "I miss him. He’s really my best friend. And I miss the ‘everything being understood without saying it’ kind of companionship that I have with him…"

(McCrea) Meghann says the family’s financial troubles began last year when they pursued what sounded like a great work opportunity in California. Then the economy began to falter, Robert lost his job and the couple came back to Vermont, their assets gone.

Staying with family wasn’t an option for Meghann, so she came to the shelter, and enrolled her son Troy at the nearby school.

(Cline) "The school is right across the street from the shelter…"

(McCrea) Every afternoon, Meghann walks across the street to pick up Troy from his after school program.

(Cline) "I worried about him telling people he lived in a shelter and maybe feeling ostracized or getting picked on… but he hasn’t told me about any problems."

(Troy comes out of school – Hi Mom!!)

(Kids outdoors, laughter)

(McCrea) Back at the shelter, Meghann’s kids and others are outside, enjoying a new batch of snow.

( "Nice snowman!)

(McCrea) Later, Meghann reflects on her life here…

(Cline) The community here has been wonderfully generous. People have gotten the children boots, and coats. And it’s unique – you’re shown this generosity by people and it’s faceless. It’s nameless. And you don’t get a chance to say thank you. But we’re very grateful.

(McCrea) When she isn’t taking care of her children, Meghann is focused on the search for permanent housing. Every week, she meets with Julie Lowell, a case manager at COTS, to talk about her options.

(Cline, in Julie’s office) "I’m getting anxious…"

(McCrea) Time is bearing down on Meghann. People are able to stay at the COTS shelter for four months. That means Meghann needs to find housing by January.

And while she and Robert have almost saved enough for a deposit on an apartment, now there’s a new concern: Robert has been temporarily laid off, with a call back date in January.

(Cline) "We were really hoping that this job wasn’t going to have layoffs. So, that’s sad. But it’s only for a month and hopefully he can collect unemployment and we won’t fall farther behind. We just won’t get farther ahead during that time".

(McCrea) In spite of the setback, Meghann Cline stays focused on her goal to get a place of her own. She’ll continue to call landlords, and fill out applications, and hope that one of them works out.

For VPR news, I’m Lynne McCrea.

Continue to Part Two: Homeless family searches for apartment

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