Jett, 2, youngest resident of the local homeless shelter
Jett, 2, youngest resident of the local homeless shelter
Jordan was 22 when she got some good news in the mail.

“Jett’s dad and I got a ticket in the mail that said we won a prize,” she says. “We had to go to [a local car dealership] to get it. We brought the ticket in, [the prize was a few dollars], and the salesman did his job and sold us a car.”

The car was a brand-new Toyota RAV4. Jordon had been happy enough with the 2008 car she drove to the dealership in until the salesperson told her it “wasn’t child safe.”

Two years later, the SUV is a leading reason why even with a steady job and associate college degree, the 24-year-old and sparkly-eyed Jett are living at the Hospitality House homeless shelter. Her paycheck decorating cakes at Shaw’s will not stretch to cover the monthly car payment as well as the minimum $800 or so it costs to rent an apartment in our area, plus basic expenses such as food and heat. It “would kill my credit” to return the car, she says, and besides she needs a car to get to work and take Jett to daycare.

Transportation and child care, says Stephanie Primm, executive director of the Knox County Homeless Coalition, “are two of the biggest logistical and fiscal barriers our midcoast homeless families face on the road back to sustainable independence.”

But good news for real has come to Jordan this year, as a result of a lot of hard work by her and her shelter caseworker, Erin Olton, with an income-based housing subsidy. Primm says these subsidies, which in this age of government budget cuts are getting as rare as a Willie Wonka Golden Ticket, “exist because for so many people working hard at full-time minimum-wage jobs in our area the fair market rental rates are simply and completely out of reach. For many, having the chance to move into subsidized housing can mean the difference between being homeless and having a safe, warm place to live.”

The subsidy Jordan is so grateful for will finally allow her to afford a place of her own.

Erin, her caseworker, says: “Jordan is making good financial choices and is very focused on taking advantage of all the services we offer, paving the way for she and Jett to have a hopeful and bright future. The safe, nurturing environment of the shelter has boosted her confidence and when she’s no longer dealing with her housing crisis she can think about a career that gets her beyond minimum-wage jobs and maximizes her great interpersonal skills.”

Last week, Erin helped her to sign up for a Penquis savings account that matches the “few dollars here and there” she can save. One monthly expense her own apartment will thankfully do away with is the $115 for a storage unit to house “everything from my baby stuff to Jett’s baby stuff.”

They also signed up for a free, Medicaid transportation service that will reduce gas bills for the frequent doctor visits to Portland for Jordan’s lupus and Lyme disease and also little Jett’s own health problems.

Jordan, who Erin says is “an amazing mother,” will miss the supportive peer aspect of the family shelter. Evenings, after a group meal prepared by one of them, the moms play Yahtzee and commiserate and celebrate over their kids, jobs, and apartment searches.

Jordan says Christmas “was awesome” because of the shelter’s adopt-a-family program that gave Jett — whose favorite activity is a drive-through the John Deere parking lot — lots of trucks and cars. The Melissa and Doug sheet set with fire trucks he hasn’t seen yet: “I’m saving it for when we have our own apartment.”