Family hopes to find home in Ironton

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2003

As if being a single mother wasn't difficult enough, try being one hundreds of miles from home with three young girls and no place to live.

For 21-year-old Renee Bowling, this became a harsh reality last week.

Bowling was living in Detroit, with her three daughters - Andrea Rogers, 6, Kayla Rogers, 4, and Skyler Bowling, 1, when her world came crashing down around her.

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The first sign of trouble came about a year ago when the children's father split town before he signed Skyler's birth certificate so he could avoid paying child support. This made a tough situation even tougher.

"She does not have a daddy," Andrea says of Skyler. "(A family friend) said he would be her daddy."

Then things got worse. After suffering some recent health problems and spending time in the hospital, Bowling was released to find that her sister had spent the rent payment and all her belongings were waiting for her in the dumpster.

Left without any options or family that would help, Bowling got a ride to Ironton because she was told that a cousin had a place that she could rent. After she got here, it fell through so she was left on the street with no place to stay and with fewer options.

"It is too dangerous to go back to Michigan," she said. "I am already here so I am going to try and make it. I don't want to take my kids back up there."

With out many options, Bowling spent the last of her money on a $500 Dodge Aspen that is acting as a storage unit, home and transportation all wrapped in one.

"Everything I own is in that trunk," she said.

Her oldest daughter, Andrea is quick to point that out as well.

"See, that is our car," the 6-year-old says with bright eyes and a wide smile that has not been diminished by their recent trials.

"The kids are saying lets go home. Lets watch TV," Renee Bowling said. "But we just can't stay where we were."

With nowhere else to turn, Bowling was referred to the City Welfare Mission. The mission has a 12-bed shelter, open to men, women and children.

Though she was given a place to stay, she says she did not get treated as well as she had expected.

Bowling says she went to the mission Thursday and was treated rudely and told that she could not come in until 8:30 or 9 at night. In the morning, she said she was told to leave at 8:30 a.m., would not be allowed to stay again because it is only for one night and breakfast was never mentioned.

The Rev. Jim Cremeans, director of the mission, said he did not think this was the case. Breakfast is provided across the street at the church. Except for special circumstances, the shelter is open from 6:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. Though it is designed to be a one night only deal, Cremeans said they make exceptions for situations like this.

"We will see that they are taken care of this weekend," he said. "She will not have to be on the street."

Bowling sought aid from the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, an agency which administers three programs to assist the homeless.

"It basically broke my heart because you can hear these little girls' stomachs growling," said Brandi Guy, case coordinator for the CAO's Department of Community Development.

CAO Housing Department representatives said that this is not the first complaint they have received about the mission and after talking with Bowling thought that she did not receive the care she should.

Cremeans strongly disagreed.

"That is hogwash," he said. "You can write that down. The CAO sends more people to us than we send their way."

Overall, Cremeans said the mission provides the best service it possibly can and helps more than 4,000 families and 500 homeless people each year.

Guy said she appreciates what the mission does but just thinks it would be better if there was a 24-hour facility.

"Our problem is we are here to help them (the homeless) but we need to be able to have someplace to send them that can help," she said.

In his 34th year, Cremeans said that they would like to be able to offer a 24-hour shelter but are only able to provide shelter at night because they have a staff of three.

On Friday, the CAO issued Bowling a voucher to pay her deposit and first month's rent. Now, all she has to do is find a place.

With her three daughters in tow, she hit the road in search of a house that they hope to make into a home.