All of a sudden homeless

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005

It’s 8:50 p.m. Friday at the Suffolk Homeless Shelter and only the sound of the television can be heard as two families and their children are about to settle in for the night.

Nikki Holloman, 18 and five months pregnant, doesn’t expect to sleep much. This is her third day at the shelter and anxiety is building.

&uot;I stay worried with the condition that I’m in,&uot; said Holloman, who has no other children. &uot;If I sleep, I don’t sleep long.&uot;

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Hitting the pavement daily, she hasn’t been able to find work, and believes employers are turned off by her pregnancy. But the clock is ticking and she clearly has no idea what the future holds for her life. Shelter stays are a maximum of six weeks.

&uot;I honestly do not know what I’m going to do,&uot; she said.

Holloman graduated early at 17 from Western Branch High School in Churchland. She said she’s been on her own since then, after her mother’s recent marriage. The home environment was &uot;not stable,&uot; according to Holloman, making living there out of the question.

Since 17, Holloman said she’s been &uot;place to place&uot; living with friends and most recently the father of her unborn child in Suffolk. After the relationship’s demise, Holloman said again, she found herself homeless with no money.

Her job at QVC came to an end because heavy lifting became too strenuous. Just two days ago, she found herself in the hospital because of pain in her lower abdomen. Even though the doctor has instructed her to stay off her feet, she said she can’t afford not to look for work, which she has to do on foot because she lacks transportation.

&uot;Walking and looking for a job really hurts me but I have to do it,&uot; said Holloman.

As she talks it’s clear that she’s suffering both physical and emotional pain, the source of which goes back to her childhood, she said.

Holloman sadly references never getting to know her Dad, who when she was a baby gave her a ring that she’s resized as she grew and held close up until a few weeks ago when she needed $30 for a doctor’s appointment. She took this ring and others on her fingers that held special memories and pawned them at a local shop.

&uot;Every time I would feel down, I would look at those rings,&uot; said Holloman, with tears forming in her eyes, holding out her bare fingers. &uot;They are gone forever now.&uot;

Considering the life she’s about to bring into the world, Holloman’s worries are compounded. She’s on a waiting list for public housing, but the list is long.

In a nutshell, Holloman said she feels more alone than ever. She’s particularly disheartened because she has always looked out for her friends and family when she had money-now she has no one to turn to.

&uot;I feel abandoned,&uot; said Holloman.

Two brothers are deceased, and she has another brother in Portsmouth that has no space for her.

She wants to study criminal justice at Paul D. Camp Community College, and become a detective. On Friday night she still had a sticker attached to her shirt with the wording &uot;Get Ahead at PDCCC&uot; after investigating financial aid options at the school earlier.

But for right now, &uot;I’m trying to get situated before this little bundle gets here.&uot;

Anthony Beamon, 35, moved to Suffolk from New York eight years ago with his twin sons, Nathaniel and Anthony, 11, who attend Mack Benn Elementary School. He’s had custody of the children since their birth.

Back in September he returned to New York for his grandmother’s funeral, and came home to find himself unable to pay his utility bill-a requirement to maintain Section 8 rental assistance.

He lost his housing voucher and his family became homeless. Living with his mother, a public housing resident, was not an option. So Beamon temporarily lives in Newport News with a friend, while his mother cares for his children during the week.

A car accident four years ago left him with ongoing back problems, so he decided to find a career that wouldn’t physically strain him. He’s now a student at Kee’s Business College pursuing certification as a dental assistant.

&uot;I got tired of doing nothing,&uot; said Beamon. &uot;I figured I could get a good job with this training. I’m trying to be a good role model for my boys.&uot;

The distance from his boys, though he sees them at least every other day and on the weekend, and becoming homeless, has taken its mental toil.

&uot;It’s been very emotional for me,&uot; said Beamon. &uot;I’m use to having my own.&uot;

But things are looking favorable for Beamon. After completing the 9-month program, he expects to land an internship, which should lead to employment.

His only regret: &uot;I wish I had did this two to three years ago.&uot;

Just as Holloman, Beamon is on the waiting list for public housing in Suffolk. He’s been told it could be 12 to 24 months before a unit is available.

&uot;I’m just stuck but still looking,&uot; said Beamon.

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board Chairman Daniel Forbes hopes recent efforts by the agency will expedite getting people like Beamon and Holloman into safe and affordable housing.

Currently, the housing authority’s monthly vacancy rate is 15 to 18 units, said Forbes. The board’s goal is to push that number down to no more than five to address the growing waiting list. On the flip side of the coin, the board has been applying pressure to the administration to move lease violators out, which inevitably contributes to the homeless rate.

&uot;You’re kind of working against yourself. We’re telling them we want to decrease the vacancy rate,&uot; said Forbes, &uot;and we’re telling the resident manager that if we don’t get people doing what they’re supposed to do, to get them out.

&uot;We have enough good people that will do what they’re supposed to do. I guess we can afford to be choosy on who we rent to.&uot;