I’m writing this article about “family”, because my husband and I experienced a situation that would lead us to question our relationship as family.
On April 9, 2018, my husband and I, along with the residents of the apartmet building where we resided, and the building across the walkway from us, were given illegal notices to vacate the buildings by April 30, 2018. We were being evicted. If you do the math, you will note that we were all given less than 30 days to vacate. In fact, we all had 21 days to find new places to live. Now, it’s hard enough for people who don’t have disabilities to find someplace to live within 21 days. Imagine how much harder it is for people with physical disabilities to find suitable accommodations. Such is the case for my family (my husband and I). He has Cerebral Palsy and spends 99% of his time in his wheelchair, and I have Lupus – (for additional information Cerebral Palsy, please visit https://research.cerebralpalsy.org.au/what-is-cerebral-palsy/; for additional information on Lupus, please visit https://resources.lupus.org/entry/what-is-lupus).
My husband and I were in a very precarious situation. We couldn’t find any wheelchair accessible housing in that short period of time – at least none that we could afford.
As the final days of our illegal eviction approached, I reached out to a couple of shelters to see if they could take my husband and I. I called one shelter in particular that was listed as a FAMILY shelter. However, to my dismay, FAMILY meant a mother with children or a father with children, – not a husband and wife. She also informed me that there are no shelters in Philadelphia which accomodates husbands and wives (couples). No shelter considers my husband and I, “family”.
I was angry. I was more than angry and I asked the woman on the phone, “so then, what are my husband and I to do? Arent’ we family?” She said, “No. Family is considered a mother with children or a father with children. Husband and wife do not count as family.” She went on to say, “I don’t know what to tell you except that you can go to a woman’s shelter and your husband can go to a men’s shelter”.
Now, anybody who knows me, knows that I would NEVER let my husband go to a shelter without me. Why? Because he is wheelchair bound and he would be an easy target in a shelter. Besides that, there are no shelters which could accommodate his physical needs. He sleeps in a hospital bed – shelters don’t provide that. He uses a commode that fits his physical requirements because he can’t sit on a standard commode (he has a fused hip and he can’t pull himself up because of the palsy in his right hand) and the bathrooms are not wheelchair/handicap accessible. How could I allow him to be somewhere and be vulernable and unable to use the lavatory? As his wife/family, I couldn’t do that. Fortuately, my husband and a couple more residents filed an injunction to prevent the illegal eviction for at least 30 more days, so we, thank God, didn’t have to go to a shelter.
The whole point of this blog is to bring awareness about the unfairness of shelter policies towards couples/husband and wife. Who made the decision that a husband and wife are not “family”? Why don’t shelters provide accommodations for us?
Here are two definitions from Merriam-Webster online dictionary for the word “family“:(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/family)
a : the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children;also : any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family
- a single-parent family