This family exhausted their Social services benefits as she explained and had no chance of saving the home without stable income. Cory lost his job which he was trying to cover his home it just didn’t happen.
Jonniana, 4, and her sister Gabriana, 1, sit with there mother. The Swain family lost their housing rental in Lakewood early July. After staying in various hotels, they ran out of money and found themselves on the street without their possessions and no place to go. They are temporarily staying in a hotel on Rt 37 in Toms River. Toms River, NJ Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @dhoodhood
Six weeks ago they were living in a three-bedroom apartment in Lakewood. Since then, circumstances pushed them over the edge.
“They just have the clothing on their backs and their vehicle,” said Paul Hulse of nonprofit HAVEN/Beat the Street, which is covering the motel tab.
This Labor Day, this story serves as a frightening reminder: Many families are a job loss away from catastrophe.
Nowhere to turn
The Swains were struggling to tread water before the bottom dropped out. Corey Swain, 38, is a Lakewood native and a former Army reservist who has worked in various automotive jobs. He changed garages in May, taking a higher-paying gig, but got let go from that in July.
“They told me, ‘You’re not what we’re looking for,’” he said.
Dawn Swain, 34, was a waitress who became a stay-at-home mom to care for her five kids: Tatania (age 11), Kiana (8), Corey Jr. (6), Jonniana (4) and Gabriana (1). They had fallen behind on the rent and utilities, and when Corey Sr. lost his job, it broke their backs. They were evicted and, according to Dawn and corroborated by Hulse, their possessions were discarded by the landlord.
“It was just about everything we owned,” Dawn said.
All that’s left was in their motel room recently: two small bags of clothes, a stroller, a Pack ‘n Play, and a couple of personal items. The kids have no toys.
“They don’t even have any jackets or anything for the fall,” Dawn said.
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As Dawn and Corey applied for jobs over the past few weeks, they exhausted their meager savings on motel rooms. Dawn sent her oldest daughter, who is from a previous marriage, to live with the father in Middlesex County. When the money ran out, the Swains pursued a tip and walked into First Assembly of God Church in Toms River looking for help. The pastor connected them with the resourceful Hulse, who is trying to find more stable housing.
“When you have a family of their size, where are they to go?” Hulse said. “There is no true emergency shelter in Ocean County. I get calls like this all the time. Families are in crisis and they don’t have anywhere to turn.”
Desperate search for work
Corey Sr. just began collecting unemployment, $141 a week. That won’t go far, obviously. He borrowed a car so he could go on interviews.
“I’ll do any kind of job,” he
Dawn said she’s applied for “10 different jobs,” including one at McDonald’s. On Wednesday she got a call from a temp agency and eagerly accepted a spot in their personnel pool.
The clock is ticking.
“School starts next week and I don’t know where they’re going,” Dawn said. “I want my kids to be able to start school, and have school clothes and not be embarrassed about their parents or everything we’ve been through.”
Tears spilled down her cheeks.
“We want to get someplace to live so the school bus doesn’t have to pick them up in front of a motel,” she said.
Dawn said her kids don’t complain or ask for much, with one exception.
“They ask, ‘Can we have dinner every night at a table?’” Dawn said.
These kids are young, but they know their family is in trouble.
“I tell them it’s going to be OK,” Dawn said, her voice cracking. “Mommy really wants them to have a great life and we’re going to be OK.”
To help the Swains, contact HAVEN/Beat the Street’s Paul Hulse (386-315-0168) or Bill Southrey (609-513-9327) or access the nonprofit’s website www.havenstreets.org. Donations also may be dropped off at First Assembly of God Church, Toms River, Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.