Natasha Smith and her six children will not be put out in the cold.
By ERIC ADLER
The Kansas City Star
“Last night, I prayed. I prayed all night. I stayed in prayer,” said Smith, who because of a lost job and exhausted unemployment benefits was scheduled to be evicted at 10 a.m. Wednesday from her south Kansas City home.
Smith’s plight was described Tuesday in The Kansas City Star as part of a story on dwindling funds available for utility assistance. A fundraising effort spearheaded by community leader Alvin Brooks has raised enough money to pay Smith’s back utilities, plus more than $4,000 in back rent.
“There were some pretty good-sized gifts,” Brooks said by phone Wednesday morning. He spoke shortly after 10 a.m., seated next to Smith at the office of Smith’s landlord, Benchmark LLC, which had just called the Jackson County sheriff’s office to cancel Smith’s eviction.
Beyond the paid bills, Brooks said he has received commitment for enough funds to pay Smith’s $925 monthly rent for perhaps four additional months. Equally as exciting was a different offer.
“We’re pretty sure we got her a job. Somebody offered her a job,” said Brooks, although the details were not yet firm.
Smith’s children range in age from 3 to 16. Although their imminent eviction generated a swift and large outpouring of support, The Star also received calls and emails expressing indignation.
Their sentiment was that Smith’s plight was one of her own making, and she should have been more responsible than to have had six children without a steady income. While expressing sympathy for the children, they also questioned where the children’s fathers were and why they were not helping.
Smith responded Wednesday.
“Honestly, they are not able to help,” Smith said of the children’s fathers. “They’re just not able to help.”
Others questioned whether Smith, who was employed last year at a $14-an-hour job for about six months, might be helped at tax time when she receives money from her earned income tax credit. With more than three children and her low income, she could receive $6,000 or more.
“I was employed,” Smith said. “I should get something. Yes, it will help.”
Brooks also responded to the criticism. He said he has heard it thousands of times over the years.
“Most of us are just a paycheck away from being on welfare or food stamps or Section 8 housing,” Brooks said. “Many of those people who make those (critical) comments are people who often profess to be people of faith. Those who are critical need to check their faith, whomever they serve.
“If a person is hungry, do you ask why they’re hungry or do you get them something to eat? I see it as being our brother’s or sister’s keeper, whoever our brother or sister might be.”
Smith is just grateful.
“I think that they are wonderful people,” she said of those who gave on her family’s behalf. “The community really came through. I give all thanks to God who came to help me and my children at this time.”
To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.