Kat Hudson

Kat Hudson
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Birthday
May 16
Bio
Kathryn Hudson has been a writer for most of her life. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, she currently calls Baltimore, Md., her home. As an award-winning journalist, Ms. Hudson spent several years as a newspaper reporter. She is currently raising a beautiful daughter on her own as a single mother along with two obnoxious cats (they are probably both French-Canadian). In her free time she writes. In her regular life, she juggles a cute infant along with a job in sales, blogs, and short films about everything. She welcomes new friends and correspondence, especially from befuddled new parents like herself.

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JANUARY 30, 2011 12:35AM

A place to call home--single mothers need not apply

Rate: 27 Flag
public domain art of Virgin Mary and Jesus
 
 "No room at the inn."

I’ve spent most of the past few hours crying. Although I am pregnant, it has nothing to do with hormones and everything to do with my security. I received a distressing call from a potential landlord and I’m starting to worry. She is the third person I’ve tried to rent from in the past month or so who suddenly has a million reasons not to rent to me. I’m starting to feel like Mary carrying the baby Jesus and there’s no room at the inn. Will I ever be able to find a decent place to live for me and my baby? 

I knew single parenthood would be hard, that is something I’ve been steeling myself up for since the day I learned I was expecting a baby this summer. It’s not like I haven’t been through hard times. This past year alone has been a spectacular trial. I feel like I’ve been doing time for crimes I never committed. I lost my full-time job last January and have struggled through most of the past year to make things work. Mostly, I’ve succeeded. I was late on my rent one time (for the first time in many years of renting, actually) and I didn’t always have it easy with my other bills, but finally, at the end of the year, I felt like my slate was being wiped clean. And to learn I was going to be a mother was a bonus to end all bonuses. I should not have thought for one moment that things would ever be easy. 

In the span of a week, I learned about my pregnancy, landed a job (which I finally started this month) and settled a lawsuit for a small but impressive and handy sum. Suddenly, my life, which had been tenuous and unfocused before started to sharpen and make sense. Accepting my upcoming role as mother, I knew what needed to be done. I needed to find a place close to my new job so I could spend as much time as possible with my new baby. I also needed to make sure it was close enough to a good college so I could eventually return to school and build a future that was stable for me and my child. As my plans started to take shape, I started the hard work of making things happen. So far, however, it has been the biggest battle I’ve ever fought. Why can’t I find a safe, clean place to live that has what I need? Why does it have to be so hard? 

It’s a hard knock life for us 

I know from hard. I come from two poor parents who struggled most of my childhood to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We always had what we needed, but not a whole lot more. While I often dreamed of what it would be like to have the money some of my friends’ families enjoyed, I knew my life was actually pretty good. My parents, though far from perfect, remained married to each other my entire life until my mother passed away. My father did remarry after her death, but he died, too, just five years after my mother. Many of my friends endured the trauma of divorce or parents who were too busy making money to spend time with them. I had two loving parents who always made time for me. I want nothing less for my child, too. 

When I married in my early 20s, I hoped to build a family I could shower with love the way my parents loved me. My ex-husband had other plans. Kids were out of the question. Whenever I brought up the idea of starting a family, my husband insisted we adopt another cat instead. By the time we divorced, we had six cats. I could only bring one with me to my new place when I moved out to begin life as a single woman. My heart broke at the thought of having to leave behind the rest of my “babies,” but I had no choice. My husband was the only one of us who could afford the mortgage on our waterfront townhouse along with the yearly taxes and upkeep. After years of abuse, I simply needed a fresh start. 

The tiny alley house I found just a few miles from my former home was far from perfect. The wood floors were full of small holes and splinters. The roof leaked in six places. I had no safe place to park. My landlord was a woman that owned several properties on the same block. She was mostly okay, except for a few of her fussier moments, like when she threw a fit over my getting cable television installed. She was concerned about the holes in her walls, but her other suggestions for getting Internet service and entertainment were no-less damaging. Eventually, she calmed down and we enjoyed an amicable relationship much of the time. 

The brightest spot was having one of my best friends living right down the street, just a block away. I don’t know what I’d have done without Heather and her then-fiancé, Scott, but they made me feel less alone and scared. Eventually, they married and moved away. I stuck it out there another nine months. I would have stayed longer, but my air conditioning went out and my landlady was in no hurry to fix it, even though I have asthma and spent a few days in the hospital from the heat. When my lease was up, I carefully cleaned the place from top to bottom, even steam-cleaning her carpets which she was supposed to steam before I moved in but never did. The place actually sparkled and smelled great when I left. She said so herself. I prided myself on being an exemplary tenant who was never late on rent and respected another’s property as my own. 

Moving on up 

It was no different when I moved into the slightly more luxurious space I moved to next. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the recently converted mill-turned-apartments were one of the hottest addresses in Baltimore. I lucked into a deal due to the fact that I had a good job, good credit following a bankruptcy and good references. 

I loved my large, loft-style apartment in the Clipper Mill section of Baltimore. Within a few months, the building filled up with a great assortment of tenants including one of the lead actors from the HBO series, “The Wire.” I enjoyed the friendships of the many people in the building, including Dominic West. We often joked that we lived at “Melrose Place” because we had a gorgeous, award-winning pool just outside our door and the place was populated with attractive, mostly-single residents ranging from 24 to 45. I’m still friends with all of my old neighbors. 

Several months after moving in, I lost my high-paying job. The rent was $1,475 a month which did not include utilities. I struggled for months to survive on a meager unemployment check and some alimony from my divorce. I was ecstatic to eventually land a job, though not a great one, where my struggle could finally end. Then, just two weeks into my job, I tripped and fell face first into the corner of an office wall. One broken eye socket and several headaches later, I was forced to spend six weeks out of work waiting for my first workers compensation check to kick in. I had just signed up for another year’s lease.

As the bills mounted, I made sure to keep the roof over my head. I paid my rent on time every month, but I knew that very soon I’d be forced to pay late or not at all if I wanted to eat, too. Reluctantly, I realized I had no choice but to move to some place less swanky. I called the property manager to explain my situation. I gave her six weeks’ notice as I scrambled to find another place to live. She agreed to let me out of my new lease as long as I was out of my apartment by December 1st. Just as I’d done before, I took care to clean every surface of my old apartment as well as steam clean the carpets before I sad my sad goodbyes. I was out of there on schedule. A few months later, the leasing agency decided to sue me for one month’s rent, anyway. So much for trying to play by anyone’s rules. 

The future is closer than you think 

The place I moved to is the same place I live now. It’s been three years in this apartment and it troubles me to have to move at all. Not that it’s been my dream place, but moving is never fun. I have all the amenities I could want here, but with a new baby coming and my job nearly an hour away, it just doesn’t make sense to stay here anymore. 

As soon as I learned I had my job, I started looking for a place closer to my office so I could have more time with my future baby. It was right in the middle of the holidays and looking for a place to live then is nothing short of a nightmare. I eventually placed an ad on Craig’s List hoping to find someone who was looking for a good, dependable renter. I was contacted by more spammers and con artists than I can count. Eventually, I did find a few places to check out and one man, a so-called rental agent, called. I figured it couldn’t hurt to use as many resources as possible. 

The first place I checked out was a converted house turned into an apartment offered by a married couple just 10 years my senior. I have always prided myself on my honesty, so I let them know about my troubled financial history and upcoming pregnancy. I still had two more places to see when I got the chance to see their property and I let them know. Then, right after I decided to rent it, they decided to change their ad. It now said something about “adult occupants only.” I knew this meant only one thing: they didn’t want to deal with someone with a baby. So much for that. 

The rental agent, a man named Mark, seemed promising. I let him know I was on a very tight budget. Knowing my current income from my new, part-time job and supplemental unemployment, I didn’t want to burden myself or anyone else with a place I couldn’t afford. Yet the one and only thing he presented me with, a very nice place, was about $200 more a month than I could afford. Still, he led me to believe I had a few days to think it over. When I finally decided I should take it, he informed me it was already rented out. I figured it wasn’t meant to be and decided to move on. 

I get by with a little help from my friends 

I remembered hearing something about a friend of mine who was a realtor. She had helped a few friends find a place to live and none of them were home owners. I decided to send her an e-mail and she quickly responded. It took a few weeks for me to find properties I liked, but Crissy immediately responded to my request for help and lined up three properties to see in short order. Unfortunately, two of the places were hardly a good fit. One was a third floor walk-up; the other was two flights up. Imagining a future with a new baby in my arms and two not-so-great knees under me, I quickly ruled both out even though the price was perfect for the second place. The third place proved tricky to get into only in that the key was next to impossible to find. When I saw it, it seemed just about perfect. With a new kitchen, a washer and dryer, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, the price was a bit out of my price range, but I decided to make it work. 

Crissy helped me get my application into the realtor who had listed it. In a few days, he called to tell me that the owner of the place had reviewed three applications and mine was not selected. I was disappointed but not completely daunted. I decided to keep looking at the listings Crissy was sending me as well as hunting down my own. 

Mark, the erstwhile rental agent who seemed to quickly disappear after the first and only place he showed me fell through, called. He said his mother had passed away and he had taken off a few weeks to handle her affairs. I understood this, but really wished he had simply called before. My current lease is actually up on the first of February. I have the privilege of paying almost $200 a month more to stay here. I really need to find a way out. My last place came to me via a Google search that sort of lead me to it by surprise. 

Don’t get your hopes up unless you want them dashed 

The price was perfect. For less than $1200 a month, it included two bedrooms, one bath and a fireplace. The tile floors weren’t exactly baby-friendly, but I figured some great rugs could take care of that. I arranged an appointment with the owner who also turned out to be a realtor herself. I thought it almost divine providence when I learned her name was Dawn. I had already chose that name, albeit the Norse version, for my future daughter. 

We met at the property last week right before I had to report to work. The bathroom was tiny and I didn’t love the coin-operated washer and dryer, but I really liked the owner and the property had a lot of potential. The best part was its ground-level access. Not a single stair to navigate. The best part was its proximity to my job: less than three miles. With gas climbing towards four bucks a gallon here, this was especially welcome. I quickly completed my application, but I could tell from my conversation with Dawn that she was nervous about renting to me. 

I finally heard back from her today. She had yet to process my application and background check which included my credit. I have some credit issues I’m working to fix and was upfront about this. I also offered her a second month’s rent plus first and security deposit. She seemed okay with this a few days ago, but expressed her reservations once again about renting to me. She brought up everything from my having enough support for my big life change to my two cats (her ad never mentioned a no-pets policy). I missed her call by seconds. After playing her voice mail, I fell to pieces. 

After all I’ve survived in my life, this would seem to be a small setback, I suppose, but it’s not about me. I have this new person to think about who isn’t even here yet and yet I am freaking out that things won’t be ready. It might be different if I had a supportive partner, but the baby’s father, who has been as nice as he can, still acts as if this child is my problem to be dealt with alone, not his. He doesn’t spend any time caring where a crib might go or if our child will get the love and attention she (I do believe it’s a girl) deserves. It’s all I can think about these days. 

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Comments

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Kat I am praying for nothing but good luck to you.
HUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG
I'm so sorry, darling. Keep plugging away at it. I know your knees are bad, but sometimes you can find great places to live just by walking around a neighborhood. Look for "for rent" signs in front of homes and apartments. Coffeehouses, grocery stores and laundromats frequently have bulletin boards on which independent landlords can post notices about vacant apartments.

I'm sorry you had bad luck with Craigslist. I've actually had really good luck with them in the past, and would suggest trying again with a very specific housing wanted listing. Let me know if you need some help with that.

Incidentally, it is a violation of federal law to discriminate against pregnant women or women with children. You don't have to reveal your pregnancy, but even if you do, denying you housing because of it is against the law.
I can relate.I was a single mom too.Tough times but it will all work out and getting the lawsuit money will help!! One Day At A Time xoxo
Thank you, my dear friends. I can't believe what just learned!

As I was checking out the number of sex offenders in my potential neighborhoods, I learned that the place I liked and lost was OWNED BY A SEXUAL OFFENDER!!! He was charged with the sexual abuse of a minor and soliciting child porn!!!!

I was all upset about losing that place, but now I see it was a HUGE blessing. I now realize I need to investigate the people I may rent from, too! (Thank you, higher powers!).
Holy crap, girl! That is crazy! Good thing you found out.
Oh Kat, my heart just broke reading your post. If you read my last post, I imagine you can surmise that I completely relate to your fears. Just keep on keeping on. I promise, you will be okay. xoxo
Kat, I just read your post and your comment about the sex offender. I believe you will get exactly what you need for you and your baby. All my best to you~r
Good luck to you. I'm trying to think of what I'd do in your situation. Mostly the same things, but maybe you could also check out some local parenting forums. People there who have kids must thus live in kid-friendly places and can maybe offer you some advice about an apartment to rent. Otherwise, it seems you've got to be strong for your future child and keep going. Give yourself a break now and then when it gets to be too much, and take some time to treat yourself - go online for a while and do something fun, etc. Good luck and prayers and positive thoughts to you!
no anti-discrimination laws there? though the financial blips might allow cover up I guess... being a renter sucks. good luck.
Advertising "adult occupants only" is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. You cannot legally discriminate against a pregnant woman or a single mother on account of her child-having status.
It would be best to stay within your budget. Unexpected expenses will always pop up.
You will have enough sleepless nights with a new baby. You don't need the worry about finances keeping you awake.
R+

I read this straight through. You are too smart to need any advice from me, but I did "listen". I guess life isn't really tough until you fear for the one's you love. I would probably stress you out to say "Don't stress, for the baby's sake", but that is all I can think to say. Remember, in your analogy, didn't the manger save the baby's life?
They are just about giving away mobile homes now days. If you have the income you just might be able to make a great deal. We did and are forever grateful for this little park where we ended up. Good luck.
Time for a change in luck, Kat.
I can't BELIEVE the rents there.
I have a 3BR house with a garage/workshop/storage on a corner lot in a decent neighborhood and my mortgage is $460 mo.
That's including escrow for my RE taxes which are in the mid teen K's.
Of course, I live in north central WI and haven't checked to rents in the cities I had lived in such as Chicago, Mpls, Fan Fran, etc.
I suppose they're exhorbitant.
Good luck to you, Kat.
Can the baby's father help you with this? This is something really practical he could do for his baby ... I really hope he understands soon that this is happening to him as well and steps up.

I agree with rjheart that you won't need two bedrooms (not for your baby, anyway) for quite a while. I really understand your drive for security, too. I hope you find something wonderful soon.
Your post is heart-wrenching. Having moved too often in my life I empathize with your situation.

Have you thought of asking the people at your new job if they know any great places nearby? It's tough enough in the new months of a new job but new co-workers can be great resources for apartments ... and other things you might need.

Best of luck. Once the baby is born you'll be in better shape and you've got the universe on your side.
This is heart breaking, but I have a strong feeling that your place is waiting for you. Remember how you found a job after you learned you were expecting your baby? Your baby will bring you the luck and strength you need - karma. Good people get what they deserve, it just takes a little detour sometimes. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts.
This was really hard to read, Kat. So upsetting, so unfair. I can't believe how prejudiced and insensitive people can be. Times are hard for everyone. Why make it even harder by being unkind to single mothers? I'm sending positive thoughts you way. Thank you for sharing on this important issue.
As a young single mom years ago, I looked at old house conversion apts and never had much trouble in renting them although I was on a limited budget also, perhaps that might work better. The rooms are large, they usually have a yard which is good for children. I did end up doing some fixing up as some were not up to my standards, but I accepted that as trade off for the less rent I paid. Best to you, and your new little one.
I'm sure you're not infatuated with what the media foists off on us as the American Dream, a house or apartment of your very own. I suggest looking at places like Craig's List for people to share a place with, even other single mothers. When you've got a kid, it's nice to have a few people around to help each other out.