Gaston County woman struggles to stay off streets, find affordable rent

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Gaston County woman struggles to stay off streets, find affordable rent

Yolanda Cummings, of Gaston County, said she has tried everything possible to find a stable place to call home, but she consistently gets priced out of places to live.

Cummings was a working professional making $31 an hour when her life took a turn, and she is in danger of slipping into chronic homelessness.

“I got up one day and couldn’t pay the hotel bill,” Cummings said.

>> If you’d like to support Cummings, you can donate to The Gateway Gaston by clicking here.

Cummings spends her days at the Gateway in Gastonia providing clothes and other resources to people in need.

“It was like I walked out of a good life and walked into the “Twilight Zone,” she said.

Cummings moved to North Carolina in 2018 after working in Veteran’s Affairs in Philadelphia.

She moved into a hotel after a deal to buy a home fell through thinking things would work out soon.

She had money but couldn’t get job because she didn’t have a permanent address. In addition, Cummings couldn’t get a home because she didn’t have a job.

She spent the first night at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“That was the only place I knew to go that had lights, had a bathroom and where I felt safe,” Cummings said.

Cummings started to live out of her car.

“When I saw the encampments, I was blown away and never thought I would be a part of that,” she said.

Advocates say Cummings is a good example of unhoused people who have jobs but were overtaken by circumstances and the cost of living.

“I just want to grab myself by the throat and like, ‘How come you are not out of this situation yet?’” Cummings said.

Cummings calls herself a functioning homeless person because as difficult as it is, she believes there is a way out.

However, Cummings is on the clock with a hard deadline.

She has one week to find a new home before she must leave the Salvation Army where she has been staying.

Not giving up hope

Cummings said she has spent weeks applying for new rentals in the area.

“I’d say anywhere from 75 to 100 places,” she said.

However, Cummings has been turned down because even though she has a job, she doesn’t make enough money to qualify for a lease.

“Yesterday I found two great places but because I don’t make three times the amount of the rent, I am not eligible,” Cummings said.

That is the standard most rental operators are using at a time when rent is at its highest level.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Gaston County is $1,242 a month, according to www.rent.com.

Someone would have to make almost $47,000 a year to be eligible to rent that home, which is more than the average salary in Gaston County.

Cummings is still looking but decided she won’t wait until the last day to move out of the Salvation Army.

“I refuse to wait until the 18th so one way or the other, it’s my plan,” she said.

Cummings realizes paying rent is difficult for her and worries about families who also can’t afford a place to live.

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