Louisville Magazine

MAR 2017

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 3.17 67 type of thing," she says. "So once I left Housing Authority, that's when the plac- es started to fall off. ey don't have to live up to anybody's standard. So I guess if the water's running and you can flip the light on, you know, that's about as complex as they're gonna get." (She left Cotter when she was about 19 to find a place of her own.) Oates lived in the Iroquois neighbor- hood for six years, and then kept a place on Jackson and Liberty streets downtown for 10 years after that. Transience is not in her nature or her upbringing. Which is one reason why the house on 36th got to her. She never felt safe there; she felt watched. Oates worked as a driver for TARC3, the city's transit service for disabled people who cannot use regular public transit, and when she left early each morning for work, she looked over her shoulder. She worried someone would watch her leaving, make note of her schedule, and try to break into her house. Her daughter still slept upstairs, where the flooring on the sides of the at- tic was, Oates says, too unstable to walk on with confidence. She wanted storm doors, one more barrier between her home and everything outside. She never got them. Downstairs, the floor sank in- ward like space around a black hole. e slant was so bad that, one evening, sup- per slid off the stove, as it often did, and the next thing Oates saw was a shower of sparkling glass blooming in air along the wall, slivers and shards and tiny grains prismatic for the infinitesimal amount of time it took for them to fall to the ground. She couldn't be exactly sure what she'd thrown now that it was totally shat- tered, a glass perhaps, but she recognized the look on Danielle's face, the surprise, the concern, perhaps a shade — oh so dark — of understanding. In her kitchen on Jefferson, Oates folds the napkin she's been using to dry her tears and absently presses it between the table tiles, as if cleaning. She's used the phrase "the hardest part" several times — for finding people to help them move (they've dwindled), for living with a back condition (the pain has not) — but this seems to be truly the hardest part: "Having your daughter (stay) in a shelter just kind of crushed me." ey'd been homeless before, after they'd been evicted from house number four (or was it five?), the place on Grand Avenue. For about six months, Oates and Danielle stayed first with Danielle's "step-dad," Oates' ex who had filled a paternal role in Danielle's life since she was three years old, and then for several months with one of Oates' best friends. But this time, they'd exhausted their options, and Oates had to turn to her aunt, who didn't offer to let Danielle stay. Danielle went to Wayside Christian Mission. Oates stirs at her coffee again, and the consistent volume of the metal ringing against the glass makes the decrescendo of her voice all the more pronounced. It is as if her voice is dropping out from under her. "It was like trying to catch your breath, and you were running out of air. At that point in time, she was stronger than I was. And I started taking anything Securitas had that I could work," she says, mentioning the temp security job she took while living with her aunt to try and save up for a new place to get Danielle out of the shelter. (Oates lost her job with TARC, where she'd worked for more than six years, because, as she puts it, "I didn't know how to shut my mouth." She says they would "bog down" her shift, giv- ing her too many runs.) "And anything (Securitas) had, I took it, whether it was babysitting brand-new Ford cars or sitting in an empty building. It just didn't make any difference. And I knew my back hurt, I knew this spondylolisthesis was running down my leg, and I would cry when I got home because I was in so much pain." Something comes together in her, though it seems incomplete, like two puzzle pieces joining when all the other pieces are lost. "It didn't matter," she says. I ask how she made it through the pain at work, and she stares ahead blankly. "I don't know." Oates and her aunt did not get along well. She tells me that her family members told her she wasn't working as hard as her father had. "My father worked so hard he had a stroke," she says. "Is that the way you want me to do it? You want me to work to the point I stroke out? at's nice." She says her aunt kicked her out on March 18, Oates' birthday, just a few days before she got her current apartment. But it was Oates' aunt who mentioned the Urban League, and a few months later, Danielle came over from the shelter to see the new place. "e day we seen this apartment was the day we signed the papers," Oates says. Oates likes her place, though it's had its own issues. Boxes of latex gloves and paper face masks sit on the couch in the entry room, which is connected to the kitchen. Oates got them after the room flooded, water pouring from the water heater, she says. She tells me that tiny wriggling crea- tures swam along the floor. Soon Oates will start looking for a new place. It's hard, homes slipping through fingers like water gone bad. She chokes up. "I'm the one that feels like they're letting the team down," she says. "Because I've got this" — she struggles with the word — "disability that is limiting me from what I feel like is living. I went from being able to work 50, 60 hours a week, go to the gym three times a week, lose 100 pounds. And then, wham, this thing with the back just literally took my legs from up under me." And she's crying in her kitchen, she's crying on Indian Trail, she's crying on Riv- er Park Drive, she's crying on 36th Street and Grand Avenue and Goldsmith Lane, little pieces of her sparkling down her face, full of light in the infinitesimal amount of time it takes to fall. REBOUND's Kevin Dunlap mentions issues like lead contamination, and also poor insulation, which can lead to higher utility costs, which can lead to unpaid bills, which can lead to eviction, which prevents people from finding new places to rent. "It creates a cycle," he says.

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