Hi. My name is Sarah and I am 38 years old. I came out as a lesbian when I was 25. I grew up in a very conservative Southern Baptist home and was outed to my parents by a family friend. As a result, I was shunned and told that because I had chosen to live a life of sin that I would no longer be welcome in the family. I have not spoken to my family since then. I was able to reconnect with my biological mother and we had a good relationship until she passed away from cancer in 2012.
I met my wife, Sam, in 2009 and we got married in 2017 on our anniversary, October 17th. We had a small ceremony on a private beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine surrounded by our closest friends and family. The only blood family in attendance was my half-sister. We invited all of my half-siblings and my wife’s half-siblings and her parents. None of them showed up. We are thankful for the friends who stood in for our families and we love them for it!
In 2019 we decided that we had had enough of the snow and cold in Maine and wanted to live in a warmer climate. We decided that Asheville, NC was the perfect place for us to start a new chapter. We packed up our life and made the move to Asheville. We both had jobs that we loved and we were having a great time getting settled into our new home. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we were considered essential workers so we continued to work and live as we had been…well, except for the masks!
Unfortunately, in May 2020 I had to make the difficult decision to leave my job as it was becoming unsafe for me because I am immunocompromised with asthma. With only Sam’s, income we couldn’t continue paying our rent. Other bills were piling up and we made the difficult choice to return home to Maine where we had more support. So, in September 2020 we moved home to Maine.
My sister and brother-in-law were gracious to allow us to live with them until we were able to get our own place. We didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find a rental in our area. It was and still is cutthroat! You put in an application for an apartment and next thing you know the apartment is rented and you were not considered. It’s hard but we were making the best of it. I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member working in partnership with the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative and the South Portland Police Department. My role is to assist the police department in creating non-arrest pathways to treatment. I love my job and it has been incredibly rewarding. Here’s the only issue: because I am considered a volunteer and many AmeriCorps VISTAS serve in low-income communities, we are only paid a very modest stipend. I bring home only $587 bi-weekly! Sam has a great paying job as a psych technician at a local psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, because her job pays so well, we don’t qualify for many of the aid programs or Section 8 housing because our combined income is just over what is considered poverty level.
On February 11, 2021 we lost our home to a fire. I was the only one home at the time. The house was a total loss. It was determined that the fire started by a faulty electrical box in the attic. The fire moved quickly through the wall separating our bedroom and my sister’s room. After seeing the damage, I noticed that the fire was roughly half a foot away from the desk where I had been working that day. Our pets and all of us are safe and no one got hurt. We lost everything that was in our room. We both lost our laptops, clothing, books, and sentimental things. Thankfully our bed, living room furniture, and household items were spared as we have them in a storage unit.
We were blessed with friends who stepped up immediately and helped us secure a hotel for a few weeks, gift cards to buy clothing and money to buy food and toiletries. We were able to move into a temporary rental with my sister and brother-in-law, but after a few weeks there it was clear that we needed to get out. I have trauma related to childhood abuse at the hands of my biological mother. I love my sister dearly, but she is a lot like our mother and her frequent outbursts of anger triggered me so badly that for the last three days we were in the house I didn’t leave our room except to use the bathroom. I was having frequent panic attacks and became suicidal. Sam made the decision that we would return to the hotel. It wasn’t ideal, but we knew we’d at least be safe.
Our niece set up a GoFundMe for the four of us, but Sam and I saw none of the money raised. We also did not get any money back from the insurance company for the things we lost because we weren’t on a lease and we didn’t have renter’s insurance in our names. We had some savings but it is all gone now.
To add insult to injury, with all that had happened, we missed a few car payments. We were reminded when our loan company called to let us know that if we didn’t set up a payment plan to pay off the car within 24 hours, the car would be repossessed. We were given two amounts to choose from and neither are feasible. We currently owe $2,300 split into two payments of $1,150. One payment is due on the 23rd of this month and the second is due in July. We are also being forced to choose between having a car or having a safe place for us to live. Now that it’s summer, the hotel rate has gone up considerably and we are now responsible for paying over a thousand dollars a WEEK for the hotel. That leaves us little to no money for food, toiletries and dog food for our sweet Boston terrier pug named Niko.
Sam and I have both worked in social services for the last fifteen years and we are naturally folks who like to help others. We do not like asking for help or admitting that we need it. This has been incredibly hard to share and I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read our story.
If you’d like to help us save our car or secure more permanent housing, we would appreciate it so much! We understand that this has been an incredibly hard two years for a lot of folks and we don’t want you to feel obligated to help us financially. If you just don’t have the funds right now, we totally understand. Would you please consider sharing our GoFundMe? The more people that see it, the better!
We love this community and we are so thankful for YOU!