“Single mom seeks same to share my home,” Christine Bevilacqua’s Craigslist ad reads. “$700 includes all utilities, laundry, internet, [satellite] TV, master bedroom and bathroom. Depressed, uptight, or lazy women need not apply.”
Bevilacqua isn’t quite a single mother — at least not in the traditional sense. Sure, she is currently raising three daughters on her own, but she’s not exactly single. Her husband, Edward Bevilacqua, is, at the time of this writing, awaiting transfer to prison at the Vista Detention Facility, where he is beginning to serve out what he and his wife hope will be three years of a seven-year sentence. The story is as follows: Eight months ago, the internet-kiosk business the two started was raided by the FBI based on the (correct) suspicion that members were operating what the Union-Tribune describes as a “20 million [dollar] Ponzi scheme.”
The details may be convoluted, but Bevilacqua, 37, is adamant that her husband is innocent and that other employees are responsible for the company’s transgressions. Blonde and petite, Bevilacqua sits at the kitchen table of her rented home, one she will soon be leaving for much smaller accommodations.
“[My husband] was in jail for so long because he was refusing to plead to something he didn’t do and was pushed and pushed and pushed by the public defender’s office to take a deal,” she explains. “And, finally, the judge gave him an ultimatum: ‘If you don’t plead and you go to trial and lose, I’m going to be very heavy-handed with sentencing.’ ”
For Bevilacqua, who has been a stay-at-home mom for ten years, and her daughters, aged 5, 8, and 10, this means a drastic cut in income and the eventual relocation from their 6000-square-foot home in Bonsall to the modest yellow Fallbrook one-story they currently occupy. It also means that Bevilacqua has had to get a job and, ultimately, a roommate.
Hence the ad on Craigslist, in which Bevilacqua has outlined her willingness to sacrifice her “sanctuary,” the house’s master bedroom.
“I just can’t keep paying the rent here,” she says honestly, as the evening light fades in a window overlooking the quarter-acre property the house sits on. “I mean, family’s been helping me, but that can’t go on.”
The current economic crisis hasn’t made things any easier. Even with her job as an administrative assistant for a wholesale florist — her first salaried position in ten years — Bevilacqua is finding it difficult to support herself and three children under 12.
Her daughters, she says, are not “too traumatized,” but are having some trouble adjusting to their new, more frugal lifestyle. The major differences? No Disneyland, says Bevilacqua, and fewer meals out.
“They still ask me for stuff,” she says. “I tell them, ‘I’ve explained to you guys that we just have money for the basics.’ And they’re getting it.”
While Bevilacqua’s case may be unique, due to her husband’s unfortunate circumstances, her situation is not. There are dozens of other families who, like Bevilacqua, are seeking a roommate — sometimes more than one.
Rhonda Wallace found herself in a similarly tight spot when she moved back to San Diego in September from Las Vegas, where she and her 21-year-old son were staying with her eldest daughter. In San Diego, Wallace, 52, found and “fell in love” with the Spanish-style, one-story house in Talmadge she now rents. The back-patio view, which looks out over shrub-filled canyons and Fairmont Avenue, sold her on the place, and she doesn’t want to leave.
For the past three years, Wallace has been living off the proceeds from the 2006 sale of her house in Seattle, but now finds herself short on money. Even with her current job as a customer-service representative, funds are tight.
“I have not been this poor…ever,” she says matter-of-factly, as she smokes a Kool on her back patio. “I’m just not handling poverty well.”
Currently, Wallace has two roommates, a single father with every-other-weekend custody of his three-year-old, and a single woman, along with her 21-year-old son. Wallace says she hasn’t had to live in a shared home for years. Though she likes her roommates, describing them as “courteous and cordial,” she is definitely not used to sharing space with strangers.
“Having to live together with someone like we’re 20 years old, it’s hard,” she says.
The original plan was for a friend of her son’s to move in with the two of them, but that fell through shortly after their relocation from Las Vegas. In need of extra financial support, Wallace ran an internet ad and promptly found her female roommate. After putting up a “For Rent” sign around the corner from her home, she got her second roommate, the single father, who works not far away.
With Wallace’s son, who attends cosmetology school full-time, the grand total of additional housemates amounts to three — aside from Wallace herself, who acknowledges that things are for the most part working out.
“Everybody’s kind of independent; we all do our own thing,” she says. “It’s not like we all sit around and watch TV together like we’re a big family unit. It’s just not…it’s not weird, like I thought it would be.”
Recently, though, there have been bumps in the road. The single father, says Wallace, has started to skip out on his share of the rent.
“He told me he had tons of money, that he had enough to pay his bills and split the rent and utilities,” she recalls. “Come to find out, one day, when it’s time for rent, I had to cover his share because he showed me this court document where he had been kicked out of an apartment where him and his wife had lived. And that’s why he couldn’t pay me the rent. His wages were garnished.”
Wallace didn’t use a specific screening process for her renters, instead relying on intuition. This, surprisingly, is not uncommon. Laura Zapico, 33, who rents out a room in her home, as well as a granny flat on her property, uses the same method when finding tenants.