When bad breaks pile up, paying the rent can be impossible

The first of the month has a way of coming around faster than any other day on the calendar, especially when it’s the day you’re supposed to slip a check beneath the landlord’s door.

And when you have missed a few firsts of a few months, the landlords start slipping things under the door, too. Things like eviction notices.

That’s the situation that Verna Rankins and her 2-year-old son, Kameron, found themselves in.

Rankins, a 31-year-old single mother living in East Oakland, has held one temp job after another, mainly answering phones. She has answered the phones for a stationer, a mobile veterinary clinic, an electronics company and several hotels. Temp, she knows all too well, stands for temporary.

“It means you can walk in any day and someone can tell you that your job is over,” she said. “So long. Goodbye.”

Her job as a mom is anything but temporary. Bills piled up. Bills for diapers, doctors and day care. Bills for groceries and gasoline. Bills for interest on the bills.

“Falling behind can happen to anyone,” Rankins said. “You don’t have to do anything wrong. It can just happen. Rich or poor. Anybody and everybody.”

Rankins and her son live in a one-bedroom apartment with steel bars on the windows and street battles just outside them. Rankins, a native of St. Louis, has lived in the East Bay since she was 15. She is working on a community college degree, when she can find time to attend class.

Their small living room is populated with a stuffed dog, a small scooter and a handful of jigsaw puzzles with long-lost pieces. Over the summer, when the bills piled up faster than usual, things started going south. Before long, Rankins was three months behind on her rent.

The landlord slipped her an eviction notice. Rankins scraped up just enough to postpone the date for one more month. But then the 1st of the next month began to creep closer and closer and, this time, she had nothing to scrape.

“It’s not the landlord’s fault,” Rankins said. “He has a mortgage and bills to pay of his own. I don’t blame the landlord. It’s just the situation.”

In desperation, she and her unemployment office counselor turned to The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing Fund.

After verifying her story, the fund cut a check for three months’ back rent and sent it to the landlord — two days before the eviction notice was to take effect.

“You cannot believe what a weight was lifted from my shoulders,” Rankins said. “I cried the whole day. All I can say is thank you.”

And good news seems to breed good news. A short time later, Rankins got another job offer at a Palo Alto hospital — a permanent job, with benefits and better pay.

With a little good luck, Rankins will never again come up short on rent day. And she said she is well on her way to making that little good luck happen.

This story was written by Steve Rubenstein of the San Francisco Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter: @SteveRubeSF.

The original article can be found here.