“Two days after our parents left, the rent was going to be due. Our folks bailed out on us. The landlady moved Mom and Harry to a smaller place for $785. I asked if she would do the same for us; she wouldn’t. She was totally rude with us, and she took our part of the deposit that we put down on the apartment and gave it to my mom. We got served with a notice. The landlady told us we had to be out in two weeks unless we came up with $985 for rent, but I said, ‘We have 30 days. I’m not going anywhere with my son in two weeks. Take me to court.’ Clyde got his check on Thursday, but it was only around $130.
“Then my mom called 7-Eleven and got him fired. Clyde lied on his application and she told the boss that.” According to Bonnie, her mother had an ax to grind. After she got Clyde fired, she went after Bonnie. “My mom called the welfare on me. You see, I hadn’t reported Clyde’s income yet. I was waiting for him to get settled in. I remember he had a job once for five months, and the next thing I knew, he quit. I wanted to make sure he’d stay before I quit the welfare, because it takes a while to reapply.
“My mom told them what I did and they cut me off. They told me to reapply in six months. They sent me a letter with information plus CalWorks, because Clyde didn’t go to his classes. He was on the welfare too. You’re supposed to go to classes when you’re on the welfare with CalWorks. When I called, they said, ‘Clyde is working and you’re not reporting it to us, plus he didn’t go to his classes.’ So we got sanctioned.”
Bonnie reapplied when she got pregnant with her daughter. “I did the paperwork, got my interview, and explained my situation. The social worker said she would talk to her supervisor and send me the paperwork in the mail. I told her to send it to my mom’s address. But the form said I was denied. I appealed it, but to this day, I still haven’t gotten it.”
The 30 days came and went. Clyde had no job, and Bonnie’s welfare had been cut off. The ax came down. They left like refugees, with only the clothes on their backs and carrying their prize possession, Jacob. “I called my mom, and we asked her to get the baby’s crib and clothes so they wouldn’t be thrown away. She agreed, though moving back in was and is out of the question.
“We’ve tried, and she won’t do that. Her husband doesn’t like me, doesn’t want me there. She has given me money, but not lately. For the last eight months, she hasn’t given me nothing,” though she knew Bonnie was homeless with children. “I said, ‘Don’t do it for me; do it for the kids,’ and she’s, like, ‘I cannot.’ Not to be mean, but she’s getting Social Security now. She gets about $400. She says $400, so let’s say about $500 a month from her check. Her husband gets $1000 a month, plus another $200 from the VA. Her roommate gives them another $500. Look, I’m not counting your money, but for your grandkids, you figure you could put something out to help them. I’ve asked, ‘At least take them in for me until I can get a job,’ ” and the answer came: no.
“But, finally, I’m afraid to leave them there with her. I would want to write a contract saying she couldn’t take them away from me and say I was bad to my kids, because then I’d never get them back.”
Returning, then, to the day of eviction: “We didn’t know where to go; we ended up sitting outside a Vons. I was crying. This woman saw that we had a small child and offered to help. She got us a room at the Value Inn for one night. That is when I got the idea to panhandle for the money to pay for a room.”
Bonnie was safe for the night, but the floodgates had been opened, and it would be up to her to keep the family afloat. “Getting Clyde to look for work is hard. Once he has a job, he’ll stick to it; it’s just getting him to go out and look for it. He hates to look for work. He doesn’t do drugs or anything. He doesn’t drink. I just think he’s had all these different girlfriends that have taken care of him. At first, I would let him stay with me because he would help with my son.”
However, as we skip ahead to a year later, a second baby to feed, and an endless string of one-night stays in cheap motels, Bonnie puts her foot down. “When I get a motel for the night now, he can’t stay with me. I’m not trying to be mean, but he has to help me support the kids. My kids I will support, but I’m not going to support my man. I have to just take care of my kids. If it were me I wouldn’t care to sleep outside, but I have to get a room for my kids.
“After being with him steady for two and a half years now, I know he’s the type of person that if you support him, he’ll never get off and do anything on his own. Now, we’re still friends. We talk and communicate about the kids. He helps me. We walk together, and he watches my back [when I panhandle]. If it’s raining, I let him stay in the room. I’m not that mean.”
Bonnie begins to speak as if I were Clyde, as if in a trance. “The only thing I’m concerned about right now is my kids. Not to be mean, but if you love me, you’re going to get a job, you’re going to stick with it and help them out.” She comes back to me. “I love him, but I love my kids too. I can’t have my kids on the street because Dad don’t want to help out. I get angry because I’m so frustrated from all day seeing my son hurt, my kids hurt. The baby may not cry, but she’s feeling all upset; she is having to put up with all this change. And my son — looking at him, I know he’s going through it too.