An Urban Refugee


Here, in my town, an entire city block, every home, waits for the wrecking ball, behind a massive square-block chain-linked fence.

The university bought it up to expand their “downtown campus” which does not include the downtown, low-income, mostly renter residents of these homes.

A whole block of families…picture that…removed almost overnight. Gone to who knows where. Not a trace of anybody. Like a sci-fi movie when people just vanish!

We have a burgeoning “displaced urban” population, not unlike refugees, forced to leave their community, their neighborhood, the school where their kids walked to every day, and the churches to which they walked to on Sunday. Gone in 60 days, or less.

On a smaller, one family scale, I share this photo and story.

The Urban Refugee

All you have is on the street.  The last chapter in a long, insane process.

You knew this was coming. Couldn’t pay the back rent. You bargain, plead, nothing helps.

You get the notice. Eviction day is set. All you have, those things you cling to … how and where are you going to put them when you can’t find an affordable place.

You ask for two more days. OK. Just two, says the landlord. You say thank you.

Next day your kids come walking from school, with their friends. They can’t believe it. Their life is on curb. They freak. They cry. You cry. You have no words.

You call the landlord, panic in your voice, “You said 48 hours!”  Landlord says, “Yeah, but I’m just the landlord. Bank sent the crew.”

Then. It rains. Your couch and chairs, soaked, ruined.  You got them with your first paycheck from your last job.  You were so proud. Like you finally arrived. Your kids bouncing on their new beds.

Why did the crew have to be so rough, just tossing all the stuff? Its all broken along with your heart. All rained on, even your baby girl’s stuffed, pink bear is there. Really? Did they HAVE to do that? TV busted up too, out there on the curb.

If it was a tornado, fire, pipes broken…you’d get your renter’s insurance money.

No chance of replacement money for this.

Nobody cares. Neighbors keep inside. You know they are watching from the curtains.Your kids don’t get it. They blame you. That’s natural, you say without saying it. You believe you failed everyone.

No war to blame. No disaster. No thief in the night.

You get the kids in the car. You hesitate. You see something in the rubble.  A glistening picture frame. You pick it up. Glass is broken but the picture is still intact with the family all posed and smiling.  That was a time! Yes, that WAS a time!

You smile. Just a little. You look back at the rubble that used to be your fine things.

You turn, you see your kids crying in the car. You call your Gram that you’re coming, with the kids. You and the kids. Nothing more.

You start the engine in a take-charge kind of way. You don’t look back.

You sigh, “I’ve got this!” You move on.


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