By Karen Griffiths
For Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
It's the question David Latimer, a single parent of three children younger than 5, asked himself over and over until aided by the Peninsula Daily News' “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund and other emergency services.
“We were living in a shelter, so we definitely needed the help,” said Latimer.
“It was a blessing we were able to get some help and get into this place [their new home], especially right before Christmas.”
(EDITOR'S NOTE — This article about the Latimer family is the latest in a series of stories about how Peninsula Home Fund operates and who benefits from our readers' generosity. Please see related story today: http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20130113/NEWS/301139994/home-funds-success-is-all-thanks-to-you-peninsula-daily-news-readers. )
For three months, the family— with Dawson, 5, Makyla, 4, and Chase, 3 — lived in temporary housing provided by Healthy Families.
Thanks to the Home Fund and other agencies that helped pay the $950 security deposit and utilities deposit, they were able to move into their own home Dec. 20.
“It's definitely a blessing to get this help, to be able to live here with my kids,” Latimer said.
“Without their help, I wouldn't be here with my kids today.
“I contacted as many agencies as I could to try to find what help was available,” he continued.
“So when they were able to help with my electricity and my security deposit, I was just blown away.
“I didn't expect them to be able to do that much for me.”
Latimer, 26, had returned to Port Angeles after trying unsuccessfully to find work as a general laborer in Seattle.
“I ended up going all over the place just trying to get work,” he said, “but I just couldn't a job, and then I couldn't hold a job because I was living on the streets and just didn't have a home.”
He stayed in various shelters and in “odd places on the streets.”
Legally separated from their mother, lonely, depressed and with “nothing but the clothes on my back,” he realized he needed to find a way to “get back in my kids' lives and take care of them.”
A little help
With the help of local agencies, Latimer had gained full custody of his children with the stipulation by the courts that he provide them with a secure home.
“It's taken hard work, faith and determination, and a lot of support from a lot of different people,” he said.
“This community really came together to help me in ways I didn't even know were possible.
“I was dirt-poor, no home, and I missed my kids so much I just wanted to get back out here.
“I just wanted to do what I could to change. I really wanted to get back on my feet for myself and my kids.”
He credits the Healthy Family Shelter for providing him and his children with a place to stay and for pointing the way toward a better life for himself and his family.
Programs such as the Peninsula Home Fund were created as a means to provide a hand-up to empower those in temporary need.
In Latimer's case, the Home Fund partnered with agencies such as Healthy Families to help homeless families move directly into affordable rental housing in residential neighborhoods as quickly as possible.
This is based on methodology that shows that vulnerable and at-risk homeless families are more responsive to interventions and social services support after they are in their own home.
“Without the shelter's help, I would not have gotten custody or have my kids right now,” he said.
“All I had to do to stay in the shelter was to keep working hard at what I was already doing, stay in touch with them, call and check in, and let them know my progress.
“If I was in a jam or uncertain about something, all I had to do was ask, and they would do whatever they could to help me.”
'Just doing my part'
Now working locally, “I'm just doing my part and trying to do the best I can as a single father,” Latimer said.
“It's challenging, but it's worth it. My kids are my world; they're all I have.
“I've had a lot a trouble with my life, but now I'm working hard to get back into my children's lives and be a good father — because they're worth it.”
Latimer continued: “If I had known this kind of support was available, I would have been a lot less discouraged trying to turn my life around.
“I kind of felt like I was all on my own, and it was just too much.
“It took all my strength just to find work and survive.
“When I was at my lowest, I starting praying a lot, and then when I came back here, it just kinda all came back together. “