Cold weather moved into southern Ohio Tuesday night and dropped temperatures to below freezing by Wednesday morning. By noon it was 33 degrees with the wind gusting at nine-miles-per-hour. Water that had escaped the gutters from downtown businesses was frozen to the concrete sidewalk on South Fayette Street in Washington Court House. Salt to melt the ice was sprinkled along some areas of the sidewalk.
Tanisha Adams, 22, and her boyfriend, Alexander Whaley, 21, pushed their 6-month-old baby, Abigail, in a stroller along East Court Street. Neither of them own a car or drive so they were walking downtown from Peabody Avenue to run their errands. Their day included walking to the Housing and Urban Development building on East East Street to apply for public housing assistance, then up to the corner of North Fayette Street and East Court Street to Trillium Staffing where they would apply for jobs. After that, the couple planned to walk to their parenting classes scheduled at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“I didn’t think it would be this cold today,” said Adams. She was walking without a coat or gloves, wearing a pink embroidered Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirt that said, “Flowers brighten the most bothersome days.”
Whaley was wearing two sweatshirts. Neither Adams or Whaley have a job, but Whaley wore a pair of steel-toed boots that he plans to wear once he can get a job at a nearby factory. Abigail, their 6-month-old, wore a jacket and was wrapped in a fleece blanket inside the stroller.
A house for Christmas
Adams said she was raised by a foster family in Greenfield, who took her in when she was about 7-years-old because her dad was in-and-out of jail until 2007.
“My mom just didn’t care. She just sat around the house, the house was dirty, she didn’t care to take care of us,” said Adams. “So we were put in foster care. I was 7. I was adopted when I was in the fifth grade.”
She said she doesn’t want the same thing to happen to Abigail.
The family of three does not have their own home. Currently, Adams said they share a one-bedroom house but it’s overcrowded. A dozen people live in the one-bedroom house, ranging in age from 18-years-old to about 40-years-old.
“We all sleep in the living room and the dining room,” said Adams.
Adams and Whaley said they think a lot of people in Washington Court House are struggling to find and keep jobs. In the house where they have been staying, two of the 12 adults are employed.
“There’s two people that have jobs but they have responsibilities themselves. I just applied for a job, he’s applying for multiple jobs, and we’re going in here to see what we can do about getting a house because we want this so much,” said Adams. “We have a 6-month-old. We need a house. We need a place for her to stay to feel safe. I want her to grow up feeling safe, having her own house.”
Adams said they can’t stay with her adoptive parents because the house is full with the foster children they have.
“Throughout the years that I have been there, they have had at least 120 kids in their foster care,” said Adams. “They’ve adopted two and they just got two new ones, and they’re full.”
Adams’s biological father, who was in-and-out of jail until 2007, has an apartment now but Adams said they can’t stay there either, because it’s full with the people who already live there.
“My grandma stays downstairs, and then it’s him and his fiancee,” said Adams. “My grandma has to stay downstairs because she’s not allowed to walk upstairs. The landlord said we can get in the apartment and live next door. We’re trying.”
Adams said the rent for the apartment next door to her dad and grandma costs $475 to get moved in.
“The deposit is put in with the rent until the deposit is paid off. Once the deposit is paid off, the rent is only $450,” said Adams.
Adams said they can move in “as soon as we have the money.”
Whaley said he started working the day before Thanksgiving with a local company that paid him $10 per hour. He missed a few days the following week. One day he said he had to go to the hospital to be checked out for a spot on his leg. Then he said there were two other days he didn’t go to work, two days when Abigail became sick and they had to put her health first. He said he was then fired from the job.
“I had a doctor’s excuse to go along with it, but they wouldn’t accept it,” said Whaley.
He said the company sent him a check for $202.41, much less than what he expected it to be.
“We had our hearts set on getting that apartment. When I looked at my check, I cried, because that was my Christmas present for them two. I worked so hard,” said Whaley.
Adams said she wasn’t born rich, but she wishes that she was.
“I just believe that whatever happens is meant to be. Literally if, whatever happens, whether it was good or bad, obviously it was meant to be to happen,” said Adams.
Making it in Washington Court House
Adams said she attended school at Greenfield-McClain and that she graduated from Laurel Oaks with a certificate in Early Childhood Education. At one point she had a job working with children but has been unemployed for awhile. She hopes she can get another job.
Whaley said he also graduated from Laurel Oaks, and while neither of them have much work experience, he said they are willing to do whatever it takes to be able to take care of their baby.
Whaley said his parents work in Fayette and Highland counties, but Adams and Whaley said they don’t think it would be a good idea to move out of Washington Court House.
“We have so much going on down here. We are doing parenting classes twice a week so we can get help with diapers and wipes and clothes when we need them. Our doctor is down here. And I don’t want to live out of town,” said Adams. “My grandma is getting down to the bad side, and I don’t want something to happen to her and I can’t make it to her. If something happens to her, and I’m not saying it will, but then I would maybe think about moving out of town.”
Adams said while they have considered moving out of Washington Court House to find better opportunities, they think they can make it in town.
“We’re working hard at trying to make it here,” said Adams.
She said one benefit of living in town is that they can get jobs in town and walk to work everyday. She said if they were to move in with Whaley’s parents, they would live about a 15-minute drive from the nearest town.
“Once we get on our feet and we both have jobs, I believe we will make it here. I have that belief, that we will make it in Washington Court House. I like how we have all these people that are willing to help us. I mean, they may not be able to help us money-wise, but they help us the best they can with her [Abigail],” said Adams.
“To me, it is a community”
Adams said that a couple of weeks ago she was walking through town with Whaley and Abigail and a woman they had never met before stopped them.
“This woman…spent $200 on her [Abigail]. Bought her outfits and formula and baby snacks and everything we needed for her. She just stopped us. We were walking to the Ohio Thrift and she stopped us. I don’t know who she is, I never seen her in my life,” said Adams.
Adams said they had seen the woman earlier that same day.
“It was like an hour before she stopped us, we were getting her baby food or something with WIC, and she somehow found us at the Ohio Thrift and asked us if we had a way to the Dollar Store. We said yes, and she went and got her all kinds of stuff…she went and took us to Save-A-Lot and got her six containers of baby formula,” said Adams.
Adams said they also go to The Well to get some assistance with food and baby items.
“I like how everything is within walking distance. To me, it is a community. Community is just where you can walk everywhere and people can help you and everything,” said Adams.
And as for the woman who stopped them in town and spent $200 on Abigail, Adams said, “I have no idea who she is. I have never seen her in my life. I feel thankful. It shows that there’s not only bad people out there. I was very thankful.”
Family comes first
Adams and Whaley said they have heard about the heroin issues in the community, but no one close to them is an addict. Whaley and Adams said they have never tried heroin. Adams said she was drug-tested by her adoptive parents up until she moved out. To their knowledge, no one in the one-bedroom house they share has a drug addiction, either.
“It kills families,” said Adams. “I have a daughter and she is more important than the drugs that’s out there.”
Whaley agreed, and added, “Most people don’t realize, not only could it kill you, it’s a money-eater also. I’m a firm believer in that. If you’re going to choose your drug over your money then there’s no way of saving your own income for your kids. Right now we’re getting close to Christmas and all this, and they don’t even realize.”
Adams sympathized with the children in the community whose parents are choosing drugs over their children. Whaley said he really doesn’t want to hear about it.
“Because, you know, what happened to, ‘family always comes first,’ you never hear that anymore,” said Whaley.
They both think the drug users should be addressed by the community.
“I think they should have better rehab. I think they should have a place where they can see what it actually does to their system or what it does to their body and how people can die from it. I think maybe if they realize that and they want to live then they will quit. I don’t like being around it. I think it just needs to go away. I don’t like being around it because of all the kids who have to go through the pain or all the families who have to go through the pain. The way I look at it, my family comes first. If they all want to do drugs, instead of be with me, then they can just move on,” said Adams.
Adams and Whaley said that they don’t think people who do drugs are bad people, but sometimes the drugs lead people into doing stuff that gets them into more trouble.
“I think we need a rehabilitation center, a hard core rehabilitation center here because you know, you never see any of the rehab buildings in any of the counties. You see them, like, far out in states like Florida. If we can get a rehabilitation center here and they can live in that rehabilitation center, hey, that’d be great. That would help our heroin addicts, our meth heads, our crack heads, our ice users and all that,” said Whaley.
A miracle in Washington Court House
“We don’t have money. We really don’t have no money. We try hard to get jobs. We need a place. We’re living with some people and there’s too many people there. We have a daughter and we need a place so we don’t lose her,” Adams said as she and Whaley pushed Abigail in the stroller down East East Street. “We want our own house. It’s right beside a family member and if we can get in, she’ll have a house, and we’re hoping to have a house before Christmas.”
The family walked to the Fayette County Housing and Urban Development building to see if they could get help with housing assistance through the Fayette Metropolitan Housing Authority (FMHA).
“We’re just filling out papers today. As long as we have an address they should be able to help us,” said Adams. “I don’t know how they do it, but I think they pay the first month’s rent and then they pay half the rent and you have to pay half of it. This is the first time I’ve ever gone to do this. I would stay where we’re staying at now but I have a baby. There’s too many people there, it’s crowded.”
To qualify for FMHA Section 8 housing assistance, the family of three would have to meet certain low-income requirements. For a family of three, $15,050 in annual income is considered to be extremely low-income. HUD’s income calculations are derived from the federal poverty guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), the median family income in Fayette County is $46,300, a figure based on census data and adjusted for inflation.
Adams and Whaley said their combined income this year so far is much less than $15,050, but they didn’t offer an exact figure.
Inside the HUD building on East East Street, Adams approached the woman who was working at the front counter while Whaley stood nearby holding Abigail.
They weren’t there for long. According to Adams, HUD’s funding for the year is closed, so they’re not accepting applications. She said the woman told her to check with Community Action. The woman gave Adams a piece of paper that lists different housing options in Fayette County.
“Life is going to be rough but it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be rough,” said Whaley, putting Abigail back inside her stroller. “People don’t realize, it’s not about the money. It’s how you take life and live it. Live to your expectations, live up to yourself daily, and just don’t get stupid, whatsoever.”
The family walked up North Fayette Street toward Trillium Staffing. Adams called her dad’s girlfriend to ask if they could get a ride to Community Action, more than a mile away, but the woman worked a night shift. It’s just after noon, so Adams said her dad’s girlfriend was probably sleeping and they wouldn’t be able to get a ride that day.
“We need a miracle in Washington Court House,” said Whaley. “There should be a movie called, ‘A Miracle in Washington Court House.’”
At Trillium Staffing, Adams sat in the waiting area with Abigail while Whaley filled out his employment application form. When he was finished, the two switched places so Adams could fill out her employment application form while Whaley played with Abigail.
Heads in the game
While they waited to be interviewed for a job, Adams called Community Action. She said she told them they live in a house with a bunch of people, they have a baby, and their issue is that they don’t have enough money to get into the apartment they need to get beside her dad and grandma. After a few minutes Adams hung up the phone.
“They said the only way we can get some funds is to go to a homeless shelter. That’s what the housing person just told me. They don’t have no funds there either,” said Adams.
Adams said she is afraid of going to the homeless shelter because she doesn’t know if it would have bed bugs, and she thinks her baby could get sick if she gets bit.
Whaley said if they were able to live next door to their family, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about Abigail if she gets sick while he’s at work. As they sat inside Trillium Staffing waiting for their employment interviews, he said they are both applying to get jobs at a company that is just a block from where they are staying now.
“All I want for Christmas is a house,” said Whaley.
He said that if he works the day shift, and Adams works the night shift, one of them will be able to be with the baby while the other is at work. That way, he said, they will be able to come up with the money for the apartment.
“We have our heads in the game. We have everything planned out,” said Whaley.
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton