She won’t have flowers today. No brunch in a trendy restaurant. Celest Laurry will wake up early in the lower half of a bunk bed and see his two teenage daughters, high school honor roll students, nestled in another bunk bed in an adjoining room. The walls are plain white. The floor is in beige tiles. The bathroom is down the hall, and they’ll all be up early to shower because, as one of the girls says, “You want to get in there before a lot of other people do and it gets dirty .”
They live in a shelter. They have been doing it since last fall. This is a family like many other families in a city like many other cities, hit hard by a pandemic and grappling with the collateral damage of shattered lives. And while today is a defining moment for the most fortunate across the country, for Celest and her daughters, it’s just another Sunday among the homeless.
Happy Mother’s Day.
“My kids know it’s not permanent,” says Laurry, 47. “They know that when it’s all over, we’ll have our own place somewhere.”
Do they ask when you’re going out?
“Oh yeah. All the time.”
Don’t be misled. This is not a story of irresponsibility, drugs, insane habits. It’s a story of poverty, a fundamental problem in America that’s often overlooked for louder battles of identity politics and culture wars.
Celest Laurry had a job, lots of them. She had a place to live. Here’s the common story she tells: she trained as a medical assistant, worked in group homes and private homes, helped people with everything from health issues to cooking.
When COVID-19 hit the country, people didn’t want foreigners to come in. She lost her job. She fell behind on her rent. She sought help from CERA (COVID Emergency Rental Assistance) but when it didn’t come fast enough, she moved her family to a shelter last October because she feared her landlord would lock her up “and I would lose all my stuff.”
Then he was told, moving voluntarily, “that CERA couldn’t help me with the rent arrears”.
Since then, she has been at the shelter.
Children excel despite the circumstances
What’s remarkable about Celest Laurry, who is currently staying at COTS Peggy’s Place facility in Wyoming and McNichols, is not his backstory. Unfortunately, it’s all too common. What’s remarkable is how she and her daughters have held up.
Rahmani, 14, attends Jalen Rose Leadership Academy where she is doing very well. She’s on two sports teams, is part of a highly touted “Capturing Belief” photography project at the SAY Play Center in Lipke Park, and is involved with FATE, which develops student leadership skills by working on marketing with community groups.
Rahmyza, 16, is a 4.0 student at the Detroit School of Arts. She was invited to join her school’s franchise of the National Honor Society. She designs posters, has earned summer fellowships at the College of Creative Studies, and teaches clinics with Detroit PAL.
Perhaps most impressively, she has a perfect attendance record in school. It’s hard to achieve even when your parents are driving you around every morning in an SUV. But Celest has no car – another victim of poverty – so the family travels everywhere by bus or shuttle.
“My mother does so much for us,” Rahmani says. “Even though we live in a shelter, we don’t need a revival. She wakes us up early every morning, makes sure we go to school, makes sure we get good grades and always does our best in everything we do.
When asked what she loved most about her mother, Rahmani replied, “How hard she works trying to find us a home.”
The power of a mother’s love
Every night in America, half a million people are left homeless, including nearly 60,000 families. Only two out of three homeless people are in shelters. The others are in the street. And because street people are the ones the public encounters frequently, misconceptions are easily formed. You know the stereotype. Addicts. Mental illness. Beggars. And with this stereotype, perhaps because we don’t want to know more, comes the blame game: they caused it themselves.
No, they didn’t. Not people like Celest Laurry. Not children like Rahmani and Rahmyza. They didn’t get homeless any more than the guy who works hard every day and gets fired anyway did on himself.
Sudden poverty is a wild ocean. When he grabs you, he is testing your character. Your inner strength. Do you keep pushing to return to a life above water, or do you sink?
People like Celest and her daughters keep pushing. Celest has an eldest daughter who is graduating from Michigan State. This girl’s father died when the child was young. Rahmani and Rahmyza’s father, says Celeste, “is not a part of their lives”.
So she does it on her own, another too banal story. She does not complain.
“When the girls were younger, I taught them at home along with school. I taught them to write in cursive. I taught them to read aloud. I taught them to love holding a book.
“I want them to have a different life from mine. I want to see them graduate with honors, wearing the colors of honors around their necks. And go to college.
If that sounds a lot like the goals of an affluent suburban parent, well, that’s because it is. We are more alike than different. Our dreams for our children go beyond money, status and even living conditions.
Today is the day we celebrate mothers. Here, then, a nod to those you won’t see at crêperies, who won’t be entitled to a bouquet of flowers or a giant box wrapped in a red ribbon.
“If I could get my mom something for Mother’s Day,” Rahmani says without hesitation, “I’d give her a really nice, fully paid-for house, so she never has to worry about living in it again. shelter.
“And a car.”
Dream. Look to tomorrow. If the greatest gift our mothers give us is hope for the future, then Celest Laurry and others like her are doing it, despite it all, in white-walled homeless shelters across the country. They deserve our respect and applause.