Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Once homeless Lawrence family makes goal of having own place by Thanksgiving

With help from Family Promise, Clay and Cami Mitts got to move into their new apartment with their two boys, Cash, 2, and Carter, 3,  in time for Thanksgiving. They had been homeless for much of the past year.

With help from Family Promise, Clay and Cami Mitts got to move into their new apartment with their two boys, Cash, 2, and Carter, 3, in time for Thanksgiving. They had been homeless for much of the past year.

November 23, 2011


With help from Family Promise, Clay and Cami Mitts got to move into their new apartment with their two boys, Cash, 2, and Carter, 3,  in time for Thanksgiving. They had been homeless for much of the past year.

With help from Family Promise, Clay and Cami Mitts got to move into their new apartment with their two boys, Cash, 2, and Carter, 3, in time for Thanksgiving. They had been homeless for much of the past year.

It’s been a tough year for Cami and Clay Mitts.

The Lawrence couple, both 23, and their two sons, Carter, 3, and Cash, 2, spent the majority of the past year homeless, bouncing between motels and homeless shelters.

But they had a goal: to have their own place by Thanksgiving.

Two weeks ago, after several months in the Family Promise program, which assists local homeless families, the couple moved into a two-bedroom apartment.

“We’re so proud,” Cami said. “It all worked out perfectly.”

Carter and Cash run around the apartment, while the parents tell their story of becoming homeless for the first time.

Living in their own home in Slater, Mo., last year, Clay was laid off from his $13.50-an-hour job. They eventually moved in with family, but they say substance abuse by relatives made the home a bad environment.

“We didn’t want to be around drugs,” Cami said.

The couple moved around as Clay sought a steady paycheck, but they were mostly able to just squeak by. Between February and July, the couple lived in motels and learned some lessons in frugality. After a $25 daily motel payment, the family of four somehow managed to eat for less than $10 a day.

“It put a lot of stress on me,” said Cami of the family’s struggles. “I gave up hope at times.”

They weren’t able to save enough for an apartment until they were accepted in the Family Promise program, which helped Clay get a job at a local roofing company.

Getting by with very little is a way of life for the couple now. Clay makes just $10.50 an hour, but they’re finding ways to make it work.

“People just need a little bit of help sometimes,” Clay said.

Family Promise

• Houses up to four families, and a maximum of 14 people, who can stay in the program for several months.

• Dozens of area congregations house the families for a week at a time.

• In 2010, the program provided more than 4,000 nights of shelter, assisting 14 families, including 32 children.

• For more information, or to donate, visit

Turning away families

The Mitts’ story is one of the few bright spots in a local social service system flooded this year by homeless families, and the family is one of the few not to be turned away by Family Promise, which works with only four families at a time.

Dana Ortiz, director of Family Promise, which uses a wide network of area congregations for housing, said she’s had to turn away 33 families seeking entry into the program in just the two months she’s been director.

A September Journal-World feature also highlighted the overcrowding at the Lawrence Community Shelter, which recently announced that it has raised enough money to move to a larger site. The shelter has routinely been using overflow housing at area churches when it exceed its 75-bed capacity.

“It’s crowded everywhere,” said Loring Henderson, shelter director. Henderson said shelter numbers are as high as they’ve ever been, as 90 to 120 people come to the shelter’s doors looking for housing every day. Families make up the bulk of the increase, according to shelter staff.


Clay is all smiles when asked about their Thanksgiving Day plan.

“Just us and the kids,” he said, talking about the meal Cami will make that will “last a few days.”

This year, they’re thankful they were able to climb out of homelessness, and Cami said she shares her story to help inspire other families in tough times.

“It keeps you grounded,” said Cami of their rough year.

They’re hoping to end the year in their new home, and start 2012 with a new family member. Cami is expecting a third son in January.

They’ve met some other young families and are slowly making connections in their new city. Cami rattles off the names of all the people and friends through Family Promise who’ve helped her family obtain housing.

At 23, Clay admits it’s taken him a few years to settle into fatherhood. A different, heavy-drinking life a few years ago resulted in a criminal record and some of the problems that eventually led the family into homelessness, he said.

But now, there’s no going out; it’s work and then head home to the wife and kids.

“This is a lot more fun,” he said.

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Jayhawkgurl 6 years, 6 months ago

I thought it was a great story, until I got to the end where it says they're expecting. I agree with the above posters sarcasm.

parrothead8 6 years, 6 months ago

You're wrong. Sam Brownback says that marriage and children are how people will find their way OUT of poverty.

Jayhawkgurl 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm wrong for agreeing with the above post?

EarthaKitt 6 years, 6 months ago

You posters above are creeps. These folks are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and working extremely hard to make an honest living. Who's to dictate how many kids they can have? Good for you Mitts family! Cash and Carter -- awesome names.

Jayhawkgurl 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm not at all trying to dictate how many kids they can have but I think it's irresponsible to continue having kids if you can't feed the ones you already HAVE. It's called being responsible, who's paying the medical bills? Call me a creep if you feel like it but I just think it's common sense that if you can't feed yourself, you probably shouldn't be having more kids.

Lisa Medsker 6 years, 6 months ago

Pretty easy to point fingers when birth control is readily available to you, or the resources to procure it. Unless you want to be the one to tell a 23-year-old male that he can't have "marital relations" with his wife...

Jayhawkgurl 6 years, 6 months ago

Birth control is accessible for free at the health dept far as I know and even if its not, condoms are cheaper than kids

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, those condoms are much more expensive than children.

ksarmychick 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree. They aren't even from Douglas County or even Kansas, but now the state and Kansas tax payers are going to be footing the bill for yet another child they can't afford to take care off. Lawrence family promise should concentrate their caseload of 4 families, to families that are actually from Lawrence , and not from out of state.

ivalueamerica 6 years, 6 months ago

Please, let me follow you around and give me the opportunity to explain every stupid decision you make and how you should not make it.

My first should not be allowed to post, you sound judgmental and not very smart.

matahari 6 years, 6 months ago

Preference always given to "families." no rewards system allows for those who THINK, and abstain. Shame isn't it?

thepianoman 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't think they're hateful. They're just stating some facts. Sadly, it's the kids that suffer for their parents' mistakes. Is it really responsible to continue having kids when you're barely making ends meet (like this couple)?

It all comes down to CHOICES. And regarding Matahrai's post -- yes, it does seem those of us with intelligence don't get rewarded like those with irresponsible behaviors and lifestyles. Come on folks, let's use our brains!!! :(

Just the way life is. It has never and will never change.

George_Braziller 6 years, 5 months ago

Sometimes birth control fails. There are a lot of couples who have had an unplanned child.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah... What are the odds that it fails three times?

pace 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree,there are a lot of hateful people, posting away with snide and nasty comments.

monkey_c 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah hateful is right, judgemental know-it-alls. I hope this family enjoys the Holiday season. A baby is a blessing even to a poor family..some wonderful people have come from very humble beginnings, but then I suppose it would have been more responsible for their parents to have not reproducerd under less-than-perfect circumstances. CREEPS!! and God bless and Happy Turkey day to creeps and rich and poor alike!!!

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 6 months ago

This family picked itself up by the bootstraps and is making progress. Good for them! The dad is working and they're being economical with their food money. If you Negative Nancies want to be angry with someone, you should start with the people who are content to be drunken panhandlers and have no desire to better themselves. I admire the Mitts family for taking steps to become self-sufficient. Carter and Cash will grow up to learn the value of a dollar and obtain a solid work ethic based on their parents' examples.

Christine Anderson 6 years, 6 months ago

Man, you bunch of jackasses! I would agree that they should not have a fourth, but their third child is already on the way, so what would you have them do, huh? Unless you have been in the shoes of a homeless family, and with a compassionate hand up have been able to make another start, then who are you to judge? Have you been there? Well? This young father is now sober. This is a mammouth accomplishment in itself. With a job paying $10.50, there is a good chance they will still qualify for food stamps and medical for the kids, if the dad's job does not have benefits.I have no problem with that whatsoever.

armywife 6 years, 6 months ago

In the article it states the Mitts moved out of the home where drug abuse was taking place. They themselves (according to the article) never participated in any drug activity. I'm referencing the comment about the dad finally being sober....

Christine Anderson 6 years, 5 months ago

I was referring to where the article said he used to do some heavy drinking. Congratsto him on sobriety!

Paul N Zimmer 6 years, 6 months ago

Congrats! Hope you have a great Holiday together, and remember if you need clothing for your family, its just a short drive away! His Hands Clothing Closet (eudora), we have some pretty great clothing for children here, and the whole family usually! Just have to call and make an appt., 542 3528, Christine. We give free, in most sizes.

pace 6 years, 6 months ago

Thank you Chistine45, nice note. Next time I am in Eudora I will stop and visit. Good luck, blessed heart.

Paul N Zimmer 6 years, 6 months ago

dont forget to call first, only opened by appointment basis. thanks

mad_anne 6 years, 6 months ago

I know this amazingly strong young couple, and unless you've met them personally, how can you possibly judge their actions or familial decisions? Volunteer for Family Promise, and meet these families, and then see if you have so many negative things to say. Most of us have never even dreamed of the trials some families have faced and overcome.

Congrats Clay and Cami! Proud of you and your accomplishments! Keep it up!

Armored_One 6 years, 6 months ago

What a delightful change of pace. An article to read that is about something pleasant and uplifting, instead of filled with strife, conflict and misery.

THank you, JW for giving the readers a break from the nastier end of life.

Amy Albright 6 years, 6 months ago

Cute kids! Happy Thanksgiving in your new place.

HootyWho 6 years, 5 months ago

glad they are getting on their feet, good for them
and guess who is getting to pay for this last kid? it ain't the Missouri welfare system that i do know BUT how did they end up in Lawrence KS? why here? and good luck with getting help from welfare,,i was a single mother with 2 kids at home making 9 bucks an hour and all i could get was section 8. i made too much money for anything else,

HootyWho 6 years, 5 months ago

glad they are getting on their feet, good for them
BUT how did they end up in Lawrence KS? and good luck with getting help from welfare,,i was a single mother with 2 kids at home making 9 bucks an hour and all i could get was section 8. i made too much money for anything else,

chocolateplease 6 years, 5 months ago

Lovely family, and congratulations to them!

Still, and it's not meant to be mean-spirited at all, I can sympathize with people who might feel judgemental toward them, just a little. Most of us (lucky as we are) were taught that you should pro-create only when you are in a stable and strong enough situation that you won't face hardship. I know that life isn't always predictable and things do happen, but it appears that these parents were already in financial distress when they got pregnant again. And yes, taxpayers feel put upon, though I think they could go after far better targets than this. The fact is, we don't know their circumstances. Maybe birth control failed, or maybe they weren't taught the same as you or I. They sure are young. They need support, education, and love. I wish them the very best.

tomatogrower 6 years, 5 months ago

These young people seem like they came out of bad family situations, yet, here they are trying to make a family and change their lives. The young man could have run away and do drugs with the other family members, and let the girl take care of the kids, like so many creeps do, but he is trying to do the right thing. Maybe it would be nice if some of the negative conservatives on here would give this young man a job that pays decent and help guide him so he can make a good life for his family. He appears to be someone who would rather do that, than be on welfare. But, no, even if they owned their own business, they probably would look down their noses at him. Geez. Good luck to the 2 of you.

Bob_Loblaw 6 years, 5 months ago

I would much much rather have this family in an apartment above, below or beside me than the majority of college students I have had the displeasure of living near for the majority of my life. It is a dire shame the number of ungrateful students that take these apartments that are springing up almost daily around town for granted (with saunas, recreation rooms, tanning beds etc. etc.). This family is happy to have the bottom levels on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Google it), although they hopefully have more than that....

sks6cf 6 years, 5 months ago

I know Clay and people should know that he is a refreshingly genuine person. He's a hard worker and loyal friend. And despite his situation (and choices), he maintains a great overall attitude about life.

rbrjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

My daughter, boyfriend, and I have recently been evicted from our apartment. We stand on the threshold of being homeless just because I had a 15 year old cat. Its hard for a family, even with help, to thrive in this town that caters to the college students. I lost my job at the beginning of the year and was diagnosed manic depressive and am now on medications that I cant pay for. I took pride in the fact that my unemployment paid for my rent and that despite my situation I still was thankfull for having a roof over our head. My Property Manager and Property Owner have not set foot in my apartment since I have moved in and yet they say that my cat has ruined my apartment. I paid my rent EVERY month, on time or late with late fees as she stated in the lease we signed. After getting the notice we called her and she said clean the yard and lose the cat and I'll call you at the end of the week. Done...and done. No phone call just told again to get out. I don't want to be a family that is fighting for a spot at the shelter. I'm just very heartbroken that I had to give away a 15yr old family member and still got the boot. My X-mas wish....a landlord that communicates with their tenants and understands what this economy is doing to us. Happy Thanksgiving :o)

tomatogrower 6 years, 5 months ago

Maybe LJW should do a story on this, and name names. A little bad publicity might be good for some of the landlords in this town. My granddaughter is looking for an apartment and has to pay $25 just to apply for an apartment. What is that all about? They won't even take references from former landlords. What a racket. And I see vacancies everywhere. I don't think the much lauded free enterprise is working here at all.

friendlyjhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

This area is full of haters. Especially when folks are only able to take small steps towards their goals. Funny how many of those expressing hate are unable to do that for themselves so they put down others who have tried hard to get by. Stating those ugly facts and being righteous about it is a form of hating.

rbrjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm not trying to be a hater toward my Landlord. I just don't understand why I'm being treated this way. I'm not a college student. I actually LIVE in this community and have my entire life. You would think the Landlords of this town would be more than willing to rent to anyone who pays their rent, late or not, by the looks of how many "FOR RENT" signs there are in this town. LJW ran a story recently about how there are a number of Property management agencies that have been having a hard time renting their units. How about catering to the numerous families that are in need of a home instead of focusing on the students? If you really are in the Real Estate business, wouldn't you want a longterm tenant that paid every month rather than the 9 month leases that come with a student? I'm trying to raise my family. I'm not here to party and to "move out in the middle of the night". I am a citizen of a town that overlooks its longterm citizens when there is revenue that can be made off of the flightly students. Welcome to Lawrence.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 5 months ago

"With a job paying $10.50, there is a good chance they will still qualify for food stamps and medical for the kids, if the dad's job does not have benefits.I have no problem with that whatsoever".

Good for you! I have a huge problem with it and should not be forced to provide food stamps and pay for this irresponsible couples birth of their 3rd child! Stop encouraging these ignorant people to live off of someone elses dollar!

Sunny Parker 6 years, 5 months ago

rbrjayhawk--why does a property owner owe you anything? Do you think the bad economy isn't effecting landlords? No landlord should be forced to rent property to someone who doesn't pay the rent on time. I am pretty sure a $25 application fee is for a credit check. A credit check (in case you don't know), actually benefits the landlord so that they can decide if a potential tenant is going to screw them with the rent payment!

rbrjayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I understand that the landlord doesn't OWE me anything. I paid my rent and I added late fees everytime I was late. If they didn't allow "late" payments then why did they include in the lease the amount we were to pay if rent was late? I also understand the "credit checks". What I DON'T understand is why am I being evicted when I clearly pay my rent? I got rid of my cat and cleaned up my yard and she denies the phone conversation and told me to get out anyway. To me, this sounds like a property owner that either has an issue with memory or a property manager, Kelly Williams, that has it in for me because I have called her out many times regarding her inability to do her job in an efficient manner. If my landlord needed money that bad, you would think that the 2 apartments in my four-plex would have been rented sooner and not have been sitting empty for a whole year.

rickusa1972 6 years, 5 months ago

I met friends of the Mitts family they go to Eudora Baptist Church where we go they needed a fridge and said that they knew someone needing a stove sicne we were buying new ones we thought we would find someone that needed what we had. So we are so glad we could help at this time of year everyone needs some help. So if you know someone out there needing a helping hand HELP THEM

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