This is one in a series of articles
examining foreclosure in the September issue. See
Tisha Canada didn't want her children's
teachers to find out her family was homeless.
But when 10-year-old Antoineisha turned
in stories about having no place to live, her English teachers had
questions. When 6-year-old Antoineia drew pictures of a sad stick
family looking for a house, the art teacher got the picture. When
9-year-old Antoine's grades slipped from A's and B's to C's and
D's, the 33-year-old mom with chronic kidney problems knew her
foreclosure facade wasn't making the grade.
Canada is among about half of Chicago's
foreclosure victims who end up with no roof over their heads
without ever missing a monthly payment, according to Kathleen
Clark, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Better
Housing in Chicago. These are renters whose building owner couldn't
make the monthly mortgage.
"It's been terribly stressful for my
kids, moving from house to house, spending four hours a day on the
bus to get to school, losing their rooms," says Canada, 33. Her
three youngsters had been living in their apartment at 1836 N. Luna
for nearly a year when they first met their Texas-based landlord.
It wasn't until she showed him rent receipts for every single month
that he realized he wasn't going to be able to evict them.
In hindsight, Canada saw the signs of
foreclosure on her walls. First, there was that flood of letters to
"unknown occupant" from a law firm in her mailbox. She didn't open
them because she thought they were meant for a previous tenant.
Spotlight on Foreclosure
As winter bore down, the apartment
management company stopped returning her calls about the plumbing
not working and the roof falling in. Yet she treasured the steady
routine she supplied her brood: homework after school, supper
together, baths and bedtime.
"We felt happy with the pattern we had
going on as a family," she says.
Canada, who was recovering from a
kidney transplant, wasn't happy with her apartment manager but
hoped it would all work out.
It became clear that wasn't going to
happen when the lights and heat, which were included in her rent,
went dark and cold.
"When the kids would ask me what was
going on, I didn't know what to tell them. I couldn't make any
sense of it," Canada says.
In February 2008, she called 311 for
emergency help. Her kids were cold and, because of her ongoing
kidney problems, she couldn't survive without electricity. A city
worker encouraged her to open one of those envelopes from the law
"That's when I found out the building
was in foreclosure," she says. "For a whole year, I'd been paying
rent while the apartment management company wasn't paying the gas
Canada and her kids put most of their
things in storage and went to stay with her sister on Chicago's far
North Side. The three children crammed into one bedroom and their
three cousins stuffed into another. Her sister took the couch so
Canada, who was back on dialysis, could have her bed.
Canada resolved to keep the kids in
their neighborhood schools. That meant a two-hour bus trip
beginning at 6 every morning and ending around 5 every afternoon.
Canada whiled away the day reading and working online at the
library so she could accompany her clan both ways.
"It was a nightmare. There were some
mornings, transferring from the L, I thought I was going to be too
weak to make it," she recalls.
After a few months, the trek got to be
too much and they moved in with Grandma, who lives in an apartment
on Pulaski, closer to school. Canada is working with the Lawyers'
Committee for Better Housing and looking for a place the family can
call its own.
They need to find one soon. The gas at
Grandma's is off. Her building is now in foreclosure.
Robyn Monaghan is a mother and long-time journalist.
See more of Robyn's stories here.
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