Louisville Magazine

JAN 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 1.19 53 Before their room at the Hotel Louisville, before the night they spent sitting outside a downtown gas station with two toddlers and no place to go, before their 700-mile journey north to try to find shelter, only to discover a long waitlist — before all that, Samantha and Timothy (who did not want their last names in this story) pitched two tents under a bridge in Sopchoppy, Florida, a historic town not too far from Tallahas- see, home to sun-seeking tourists and the Worm Gruntin' Festival, a one-day hurrah that involves charming worms from the dirt to use as bait. ings had been going well for the fami- ly until last May, when Timothy lost his job as a cook. Unable to pay rent, eviction followed. Samantha's mom was doubled up with another family and couldn't take them in. No savings, no shelter space. So in late summer, Samantha, Timothy and their three children compressed life into two tents under a bridge on the bank of the Ochlockonee River. ey liked the spot for fishing — never too buggy, bass and catfish populating the olive-green water. "If we had had fishing poles, it would've been all right," Samantha says. "Like we were camping out." eir three-year-old son, Timothy Jr. (called "Junior"), and their two-year-old son, Amare, along with Samantha's nine- year-old son from a previous relationship, never complained too much. Junior loves playing in the dirt as it is. But it was uncomfortable. Knotted roots dented their bodies as they tried to sleep. at Gulf Coast heat, so persistent and droopy. Come dawn and just shy of dinnertime, cars would multiply above them, a loud and orderly brigade connecting work and home. ey stayed under the bridge for two nights, then moved to Bristol, Florida, to camp in the woods. Sorting out their homelessness in Florida would have provided a familiar setting. Samantha was born near Miami in Homestead. Timothy's a native Floridi- an too. But in early October, Hurricane Michael blew in, its 100-plus-mph winds leveling communities. e family watched the storm's hissing rain and ruthless wind from a one-story motel. In the days after, homeless storm victims filled homeless shelters in the area. "We weren't a priority anymore," says Samantha, who is 27. Timothy's dad, who lives in Louisville, invited them up. Samantha's sister offered a ride and her mother took custody of her nine-year-old. ey arrived on Nov. 18, and the plan to stay with Timothy's dad soon backfired. He lives in public housing, and occupancy rules forbade the family from staying indefinitely. One night in November, the family wound up downtown, trying to find a place to charge their phones. ey were on A new program aims to keep parents and their children from living on the streets. By Anne Marshall Photos by Mickie Winters Two-year-old Amare and his big brother, "Junior," stand with their parents. S eeking She l ter

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