They were in a tough spot and did not know if others would understand. The two never expected to be counted as part of the many individuals and families labeled as homeless.
Baker explained it was a matter of one part of life going wrong and then snowballing.
Tax season last year found Baker and Cobb receiving enough money to put a downpayment on a vehicle. Baker was working with a local construction company, and he needed a dependable means of transportation. The two decided to stay in town and build their young family, a son and a soon-to-arrive daughter.
Complications arose following the birth of baby Georgia. Cobb became sick, which left her in the hospital for 13 days. Baker stayed home with their son, Travis. Money saved away slowly dwindled with each passing day.
According to Baker, the money from his construction job only helped so much.
“We were doing well, but then child support took 60 percent of the paycheck, and then there was rent and the car payment,” Baker said. “You can only stick your finger in the dam for so long before it just gives.”
After falling behind in rent, the family lost their apartment.
Both a friend from church and The Caring Place’s Neighbors in Need suggested looking into Family Promise.
Baker and Cobb met with Family Promise director Eva VanHook and liked what they saw of the program.
VanHook explained what would be expected of Baker and Cobb.
“This is a difficult program,” VanHook later explained. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and that is fine.”
The two joined the nonprofit for the 13-week program.
All adult participants must complete certain tasks. These include finding employment as soon as possible; setting aside 90 percent of each paycheck for first month’s rent, utilities and a downpayment; and following the schedules of Family Promise and the host churches.
Both Baker and Cobb also had to take mandatory courses on financial planning, time management and parenting.
Poor choices and habits began to become clear to the couple.
Baker said a problem in their life had always been robbing Peter to pay Paul to pay Tom. This mismanagement of money was highlighted as the main reason for their eventual homeless status.
“We learned how to prioritize,” Cobb said.
Baker added, “Little things like keeping better track of our energy use.”
Family Promise depends on the aid of local churches to step up as hosts. Ideally, there are at least 13 churches for the 13-week cycle.
Baker, Cobb and their children would end a week at one church every Sunday before moving on to the next.
Baker said the cycle was enough to make him dread Sundays.
“For me, it was really bad because I worked third shift at M&M Mars cooking. I would get off work anywhere from 2:30 to 4 in the morning and could not go straight to bed from work,” Baker said. “By the time I would get to sleep, it might be time to get back up again.”
He said several days he walked around like a zombie.
Baker added, “The program was awesome, but it wasn’t a breeze.”
Baker had a job within two weeks of joining Family Promise. Cobb had one within three weeks. The two said the most difficult task was finding affordable childcare for Travis and Georgia.
Baker said both kids seemed to enjoy the program.
“I thought it would be hard on [Travis] being here and there every week,” Baker said. “He loved the program. He would say, ‘Yay, we are going back to church.’”
Meeting each goal and task renewed a sense of worth and accomplishment in Cobb and Baker.
“It makes you feel like you are not a failure,” Cobb said. “There are others like you out there. It is a helping hand. It is not a free hand-out or anything. It is to better yourself.”
Baker said all of the host churches and volunteers treated them as equals.
He described them as friendly and helpful.
VanHook explained the curriculum Just Neighbors, offered in the past, helps volunteers understand from where the families of Family Promise have come.
“Eventually, you end up learning there are no good choices, especially if you are any kind of single parent,” VanHook said. “If you have one income coming in and have to pay for childcare or after-school care, it is extremely difficult to meet the rest of your bills.”
Baker said he still keeps in contact with some of the people he met through the host churches.
The young family is working to manage bills, child support and other costs to stay in their current apartment.
Both Cobb and Baker agreed the program was just as difficult as it was beneficial.