My name is Emmanuel Lane. I am married and I am the proud father of five children. In fact, my wife gave birth to our first son six weeks ago, Monday, April 9th. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I am working full-time, my family is homeless. I am here today to share my story in the hopes of providing a greater understanding of the situation facing many people in Minnesota and across the country.
I want to take some time quickly to thank Mary Jo Copeland and Patrick Ness. Mary Jo Copeland is the founder and director of Sharing and Caring Hands. Patrick Ness is the housing manager at Mary's Place. Both have been inspirational in my involvement with the issue of affordable housing. My family has been staying at Mary's Place transitional housing since January 28, 2002. The time spent in this transitional housing unit has benefitted my wife and I as well as our family. Here we have rested our spirits and begun saving money to put towards a house. A hundred families like ours do this everyday at Mary's Place. Everyone needs shelter, but unfortunately even working families can't afford it. We did not want to be homeless. Thankfully Mary Jo Copeland built a transitional housing unit to house families like ours. Mary's Place has played a vital role in my family's, and many other family's, struggle to find affordable housing. Mary Jo now has a new vision and is trying to build a children's home in Eagan, Minnesota. The children's home will house up to 200 lost and abused kids.
As I mentioned I am married and have five children. My oldest child is ten years old and my youngest child is officially six weeks and two days today. I am a former U.S. marine. I served in the marines from 1983 to 1987. I worked in social services at Catholic Charities from 1990 to 2000. I left Catholic Charities to take a job as Youth Manager at the Division of Indian Work. My wife also worked full-time at the Division of Indian Work. My wife and I, and our four children had been living in a 1 ½ bedroom apartment in Minneapolis for close to three years. We were very crowded, but given our income, this was all we could afford. Our landlord was sympathetic to our situation and allowed us to live there in spite of concerns about over-crowding. However, when our landlord sold the building in July 2001, our new landlord said that he simply could not risk it, and asked us to be out in 30 days. My wife and I looked for another apartment in Minneapolis, rents for three bedroom apartments averaged $1,100/month. We simply could not afford this.
My wife and I decided to move to Mankato. My wife's aunt worked for the county there and she had been able to find housing through a grant program. My family stayed with her for a couple of weeks, however we left because we were afraid of causing trouble for her because there were so many of us in her house. I then applied for assistance through the Homeless Veteran's program in Mankato. The Veteran's program gave us a voucher to stay in a motel for one month while I continued to look for an apartment and work. We were lucky and we received a rent subsidy, so we were able to rent an apartment and only pay 30% of our income. Unfortunately, I was unable to find work earning more that $7.50/hour. This was clearly not going to be enough to support my family.
In December 2001 my brother told me that the school bus company that he was working for was looking for drivers. I applied for a job and got a full-time work driving for this company. At first I commuted every morning from Mapletown (a small town about 20 minutes south of Mankato where we were living). This meant getting up at 4:00am, arriving in Minneapolis at approximately 6:00am. Driving until the break at around 11:00, then picking the kids up after school. I also took an additional shift driving kids who participated in after-school events. I usually would arrive home in Mapletown around 9pm. We realized that this was putting too many miles on our car, so I began staying with my brother during the week and then driving back to my family on the weekends.
My wife and I decided that this separation was not working because our kids are so young and they need both parents. My wife and kids moved back to Minneapolis in January. We stayed briefly with different relatives, but all of our relatives were in apartments that were already over-crowded. On January 28, 2002 we moved into Mary's Place. I am working to save money to try to find a place for my family.
I hope that my story helps to demonstrate the kinds of struggles facing working families. Thank you.
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