Rochelle’s world has been somewhat problem-free for over a month. It has been the longest problem-free time since I have been interviewing her, and it did made me wonder what the next crisis would be. I didn’t have to wait long to find out because she mentioned it last Tuesday during our interview. The problem looming in the future surprised me since I didn’t even realize it was on the horizon. She started the interview by mentioning that she was recently called by a city constable who wanted to serve her with notice from a debt collector. She recognized the phone number as one she often had to call when relatives had jail problems. “Well, I’ve used that number enough to recognize the beginning numbers,” she told me. “At first I wasn’t going to call back, but they have my address and phone number, and now they’ll come looking for me.” The constable wanted to serve her with notice on a long-ago defaulted debt. A debt she had forgotten about and thought would never be a problem again. Rochelle called and set up a payment plan; she had decided this would be cheaper than having to pay court costs later on.
The newly discovered debt did present a new financial difficulty, but then she mentioned something that could indeed become a serious problem down the line. “I think I’ll probably have to move in January,” she told me. “Why?” I asked. “Your children are in school and a disruption and change of schools will be hard on them.” The conversation about the constable had started her thinking about her uncle. “Jerome is getting out of prison in January,” she said. I asked where he was going to stay, and that brought up the problem. “He probably thinks he’s going to stay with me,” she sighed. Jerome had stayed with her before, though she isn’t supposed to have roommates when she is receiving Section 8 government assistance. Jerome had helped with babysitting then, but he always goes back to drug dealing and is not a good influence on her children. Rochelle thinks moving to a neighboring town will make it impossible for him to stay with her since he won’t have a car. Her new job is less than a mile from where she now lives, and the children have been going to the same school for the last four years. The town she mentioned moving to would require more for gas money and has heavy commuter traffic to her work. The town is also not near any of the services she uses since it is in an entirely different county. We talked about this for a bit. I suggested she just tell him he couldn’t move in. Jerome is her mother’s brother, however, and Rochelle knows many people put her up when she was a child and had nowhere to stay. She has often let people stay with her for that reason, but Jerome isn’t a child. He is 49 and does not seem to be changing his ways.
Things like this come up in Rochelle’s life all the time. Jerome will probably end up in jail again, as he always has in the past, but moving to a different town to avoid a possible problem does not seem to be a sensible solution. Rochelle admits she has just started to think about Jerome’s release from jail, so things may change. “It doesn’t seem smart to pay more for gas and to live so far from work,” she said, as we finished the weekly interview. I agreed with her and told her she had several months to think it through. With luck she will see another way out of this dilemma.