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“The Heart is Always the Problem”

Editor’s Note: This is the latest newsletter from Edmund Miller of the Guadalupe Workers. Learn more at 

To help me write this newsletter, I grabbed a small stack of files from the desk and went through them.  Almost a universal theme in the file notes is “homeless,” or “need help with housing.”  Circumstances right now are very tough for mothers with multiple children, mothers who have a bad credit score, or who have a spotty legal record–not to mention the actual cost of housing, which right now is running 900 to 1000 for a two bedroom apartment.  Local pregnancy support centers sometimes send mothers to us for help with housing; yet I sometimes wonder why, because sometimes after hearing a new mother’s story, my initial inward reaction is one of hopelessness.  I’m looking now at the file of a 22 year old named Adrian, who was turned away from Summit about two weeks ago.  The first note, of course, says “needs housing.”  She is not, like some others, living in a car or moving around from couch to couch.  She and her children—3 of them now—live with her mother and brother.  She does not enjoy natural advantages from living with family, however, because her mother works two jobs and her brother lives his own separate life.  She is a tenant, then, in the house, with no reserved space for her and her kids.

A more extreme example is a woman named Kiera.  She’s only 28, but has had 6 previous abortions, two felony convictions and no present income.  With Adrian we were able to come up with a plan.  With Kiera, what plan is possible?  Sometimes she stays with friends; sometimes she sleeps in the car.  The last time she was here, her speech was slow and slurred—which could have been drugs (no naïve people working in this office!), but Kiera insisted that it was just sleeplessness.  Sometimes, in a situation like this, we just stall for time—which means that we provide a cheap motel room for a week or two, allowing the mother to rest, shower, and make a more focused effort at finding either a shelter or a landlord who is willing to take the risk. (We have connections to such a landlord, by the way, who has helped us house several families.)

There was one case in which we really were able to do very little, when Carmelina and her family were evicted from their home when it was sold.  Carmelina’s husband does work, but with seven children in the house, and inability to provide full move-in costs, they were finally forced to take what they could get—a rat infested house on a street where, the year before, stray dogs had killed a child.

Some readers at this point might be tempted to drive home the final sword of argument: “So, Edmund, you admit that there are some cases in which there simply are too many children!  Maybe you even admit that there are a few cases in which the mother really is better off aborting her child!”  Well, let me first say this:  when I meet with a mother in our little counseling room, I never end the discussion with matters of income, bills, rent and childcare.  We talk about the mother’s home when she was growing up.  We discuss the people she has lost in her life, often by violent forces.  What I want to know, and where the real trouble is usually found, is in the experience of love—or, more often, in her experience of non-love, like abuse, neglect, manipulation.  I do not remember the last time I spoke with a mother who grew up in a home where a father was present; maybe that’s because I never have.  When any of these mothers are abortion-minded, what I try to point out to them is the total inconsistency of, after experiencing a patten of abuse, passing that pattern along through the murder of the child.

In other words, economics are never the problem.  The heart is always the problem.  And because these women, many when they are 14 or 15, desperately look for affirmation, or something that looks like love, they connect themselves to some man with a smooth line.  The notes say that on June 13 I met with another 22 year old in the little counseling room.  She has three children, from three different fathers.   She receives no help from any of the three.  She realizes that she has made a series of bad decisions; yet I would venture to guess that within the next year she will have found another baby daddy, equally irresponsible.  So Edmund—maybe she should abort next time?  No.  Because of bad relationships, do we give up on all relationships?  Because of broken images of love, do we give up on all love?

We do try to help with housing.  We’re not giving up.  Because a mother needs a sense of security, and children need a sense of permanence.  However, while we prepare to write another 1800 or 2000 dollar check, we will also continue trying to provide something a little more permanent, some glimpse into what love really looks like.

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