Family moves out of shelter

Couple, baby boy end 3 months of living homeless

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It is still dark outside when Mike Patterson makes his way out of the Garden City Rescue Mission. He is dressed in a striped polo shirt and clean, white sneakers, and a passer-by would never know the 26-year-old has been living in shelters for the past three months.

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Mike Patterson, 26, makes his way toward the Salvation Army on Greene Street after spending the night at the Garden City Rescue Mission in Augusta. Mike, his fiance, Stephanie Whitman and their eight-month old son, have been homeless for three months.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Mike Patterson, 26, makes his way toward the Salvation Army on Greene Street after spending the night at the Garden City Rescue Mission in Augusta. Mike, his fiance, Stephanie Whitman and their eight-month old son, have been homeless for three months.

With a backpack on his shoulders, he begins his early morning routine of walking to the Salvation Army on Greene Street, where he will join his 30-year-old fiancée, Stephanie Whitman, and 8-month-old son, Sean. They are the only family he has ever known.

Patterson says that after he was abused by his mother and stepfather, he was put into foster care at age 5. He joined the Army as soon as he turned 18.

"I wanted security," he says.

After serving honorably for a little more than a year, he was administratively discharged -- known as a Chapter 5-13 discharge -- because of a paranoid personality disorder. That discharge denies benefits, and Patterson's mental illness keeps him from holding down a job. He has since made it his job to fight for the benefits he feels he deserves.

He spends a lot of time writing letters and filling out paperwork. He pulls out a black three-piece suit he says is used for "litigation purposes."

"I have this for when I have to argue with people in court and I have to make myself look presentable," he says.

Approaching the Salvation Army, he finds a spot of shade under a tree and waits. A few other men are scattered around the parking lot. One sits on the curb smoking a cigarette. Another paces in front of the entrance.

Patterson spends most of his days there. He is permitted to stay for only eight days and then has to pay $5 a night, so he has to separate from his family most nights. Whitman and Sean are able to stay there indefinitely.

They eat meals there each day and are required to take a blood-alcohol test each time they enter the building.

While Whitman is at her part-time job at a Waffle House in North Augusta, Patterson looks after Sean.

They typically spend their days at Riverwalk Augusta, which Mike says is the best place to be when it's hot outside.

They are allowed to go back to the shelter at dinner time. Because children are not allowed on the men's side of the shelter, Patterson watches Sean in the hallway until Whitman returns from work.

Lockdown is at 8:30 p.m. The lights have to be out by 10 p.m. Whitman stays on the women's side of the shelter and Patterson on the men's side. They communicate on two-way radios.

"There they are," he says, pointing to a dark-haired woman with glasses, pushing a baby stroller. Patterson greets them as they leave the Salvation Army, digs his hands into the stroller and picks up his smiling son.

The couple met on a chat line about a year and a half ago. Whitman, originally from Augusta, moved back to the area from Michigan because she was unhappy.

"I pitched a fit when my parents pulled me out of high school to move to Flint," she recalls. "So I moved back without them."

At the time, Patterson was working at a gas station in Hephzibah as a night clerk. Whitman got a part-time job at Checkers and moved into his apartment.

Then things took a turn for the worse.

Patterson, who is originally from Kentucky, lost his job after the gas station closed for financial reasons. The truck he owned broke down, and he couldn't afford to get it repaired.

Whitman's hours got cut, and she eventually was laid off. They couldn't afford to pay rent on the apartment they shared.

"Things just started spiraling downward," Whitman says. "We didn't have a choice except to be homeless."

Going home

"Mike, we got a letter!"

That was the first thing Whitman recalls saying when she found out an apartment had become available. They were on a waiting list at the Augusta Housing Authority but were told it could take six months to a year before there were any vacancies.

The apartment is on the east side of town known as "the bottom" to people familiar with the area, Whitman said.

"I heard my bus driver call it that once," she said. "I didn't know what he was talking about at first."

She said many of the people she knew at the Salvation Army would rather not live there because it's known as a bad area.

"I don't understand why someone would rather live at the Salvation Army than live in an apartment," she said. "Who cares if the neighborhood isn't great? At least it's your own."

They sit in the housing office of their new apartment complex. Whitman fills out paperwork while Patterson entertains Sean by bouncing him on his lap.

The couple will be required to pay $224 a month in rent, based on their income. They qualified for what is known as the "Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program."

According to the housing authority Web site, the program is for families whose head of household or spouse is employed at least 30 hours a week or families whose head of household is handicapped or disabled.

The actual cost to rent their apartment is $634 a month. The housing authority pays the difference.

Whitman explains that she has only $5 for the deposit but will pay the remaining $45 when she gets paid at the end of the week.

"I know where you live," says the woman behind the desk. They all laugh.

Later, the couple eagerly wander around their empty apartment, opening closet doors and kitchen cabinets. Whitman assigns Sean one room and says the other can be theirs.

Patterson looks down at the floor of what will be a living room and motions with his arm.

"I think maybe we can get a nice rug to put here," he says.

Making plans

Clothes are spread out on the tile floor in what appears to be the form of a makeshift bed. Winter coats are used in place of pillows. A box fan sits on one side, and Sean's playpen -- a mobile dangling above -- sits on the other.

They are looking forward to getting a furniture voucher so they can buy a mattress, a sofa and some dishes.

"We love having freedom here," Whitman said. "We can do whatever we want. There's nobody to tell us what time we have to go to bed, and we don't have to worry about our stuff getting stolen."

The food bank is a half-hour walk from their new place. They don't get to eat their meals there as much as they would like.

An advertisement for pizza is on the floor. When Patterson tried to order a pizza the other day, he was told they don't deliver to their area.

But he's positive.

"We have a little convenience store down the street. We go there a lot," Patterson says as he munches on cheese snacks.

The couple's main goal now is to save money. Patterson pulls a Winnie the Pooh piggy bank off the top of the refrigerator and shakes it.

"This is what it's all about now," he says. "It's all about our future."

Comments (14) Add comment
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johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 06:15 am
0
0
I don't get it. Unable to

I don't get it. Unable to hold a job, but can make a baby. Can't afford to support themselves so they add a third. I understand there's a huge culture living just like this, but I still don't get it. The line between "aid" and "enable" has disappeared.

Fiat_Lux
15043
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Fiat_Lux 08/15/10 - 03:27 pm
0
0
Reads to me like they're

Reads to me like they're trying to make it to independence, using the help that's available to get themselves there. Also seems like they're making pretty responsible decisions regarding their son.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 08/15/10 - 03:53 pm
0
0
Met a year and a half ago on

Met a year and a half ago on a chat line and has an 8 month old baby. Do the math. Got pregnant as soon as they met. Typical. Irresponsible and selfish.

da-realist
8
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da-realist 08/15/10 - 03:53 pm
0
0
sad,but at least their trying

sad,but at least their trying

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 08/15/10 - 04:14 pm
0
0
What gets me is their section

What gets me is their section 8 rent. The taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of almost $5000.00 a year to provide them a place to live. Some of the posts say at least they are trying, but doesn't one think they are going about it all backwards? What about honest hardworking individuals who don't make enough money to pay $634 a month rent, and because they have a job, cannot qualify for section 8. I hope these people don't vote.

TrulyWorried
13241
Points
TrulyWorried 08/15/10 - 04:20 pm
0
0
Oh how easy it is to judge

Oh how easy it is to judge someone when you are on the 'other side of the fence' - you know it all - don't you? I consider some people to be very ignorant, I just read the comments of some. Hope you will never have to walk in their shoes!

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 05:00 pm
0
0
TrulyWorried, what? Will you

TrulyWorried, what? Will you choose their method of living? I won't. If I lose my job, I'll get another. I'm skilled in more than one field. Years ago I realized the more I know the more valuable and in demand I'll be. Walk in their shoes? Not in this life.

reader54
179
Points
reader54 08/15/10 - 05:02 pm
0
0
$634 per month for an

$634 per month for an apartment in "The Bottom"? The tenants pay $224 and the taxpayers are bilked out of the remainder to pay for a slum. While I'm happy to see a Vet and his "trying to work" family get assistance, isn't $634 a bit much for rent in a slum? These people are trying and will hopefully make it.

TrulyWorried
13241
Points
TrulyWorried 08/15/10 - 05:15 pm
0
0
And apparently there are a

And apparently there are a lot of greedy folks out there that take advantage of the situation by charging such obnoxious rents. As for you, Mr. Johnston, I am glad that you are skilled in so many fields and are able to live a good life. I have lived my life and had my ups and downs and I feel for unfortunate folks that are struggling as this young couple does. I don't have to choose to live their method of living to have a heart and compassion. Of course you would not want to walk in their shoes, who would? I hope you continue to live your good life, Sir.

Cadence
219
Points
Cadence 08/15/10 - 05:23 pm
0
0
I wish them and their child

I wish them and their child the best. She's had a baby with a man with a paranoid personality disorder? Some people's choices baffle me.

gjsw
0
Points
gjsw 08/15/10 - 07:05 pm
0
0
We all make bad choices, some

We all make bad choices, some more than others. I can't imagine how hard its been for this gentleman with the mental challenges and no family support. I hope they can turn their misfortunes around and keep striving for a better life. The Augusta Housing Authority shouldn't be dealing with some of these landlords, they should be put out of business. Also some of the people on here are terrible, judging others in such a negative way. Have some compassion!!!!!

KSL
126209
Points
KSL 08/18/10 - 09:00 pm
0
0
Please rewrite without all of

Please rewrite without all of the capital letters.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 08/19/10 - 09:21 pm
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To those of you complaining

To those of you complaining about the landlords and their charges, have you ever seen what these non working baby factories do to these free homes they get????? They have free home, free utilities, usually disability or ssi for a laziness hidden by a fancy name, free food, free medical etc.... but they can't keep their house clean or not destroy it. Yes some of the landlords are bad, but you have no idea what they put up with with these entitlement losers who have no respect for anything. The landlord has to repaint from their nastiness and kids graffiti every inspection, they have to clean and replace the carpet these people destroy every inspection, I've even seen some have to have housekeeping come in or they will withhold rent or take the rent back!!! If the family puts a body sized hole in the wall from the loser boyfriend living there... landlord pays, they break a ceiling fan, landlord, they bust a window, landlord... or they don't get paid from housing. Do the tenants lose their section 8 from being nasty and destructive....... of course not! Just visited one of these families today... house nasty as all get out had to be almost completely remodeled by the landlord, no expense to the tenant, but these people after living like this with all the freebies and not working for at least 6 years I know of.... is pregnant again. Why would anyone work when they can have free everything and pop out kids like its nothing over and over and over. The only thing that would change that is pride, which they have none, or the gov't stopping these losers. The least they can do is require them to stop having children!!!! You have 5 and dont work and cant keep your free home clean.... why do you deserve more kids, and why do the taxpayers have to foot that bill. Not to mention the poor child you will bring up into this vicious cycle you teach them with like a proud family tradition with you never even giving them a chance to be anything else because thats all they know!!!!

bluetooth.m
0
Points
bluetooth.m 12/20/10 - 12:27 am
0
0
MY NAME IS MICHAEL PATTERSON

MY NAME IS MICHAEL PATTERSON AND I AM THE PERSON YOUR TALKING ABOUT.
I AM A DISABLED VETERAN OF THE U.S. ARMY, for all you liberaly challenged pretending peace keepers. My Disorder is specified with symptoms being Paranoia. the disorder is just the axis in this case relating to schitzophrenia, for all you Phycologists posting on my wonderfull life, thank you, Im more intelligent than you now.. having a mental illness doesn't mean you can't read write or do math, it just means your more Retarded than me for thinking so. Don't feel sorry for me, you need to feel sorry for yourselves and the leaders of this country for letting Americans post your wasted freedom of speech and right to vote, online. Oh! And by the way, I DO VOTE! I've worked since I was 15yrs old, by the time I was 5 I worried I couldn't tie my shoes the right way so I asked how to get a job to learn. LOL, and yes, I've been to College too, just incase you were wondering. Majored in Computer Science. REMEMBER; The article only tells you the parts requested for their story, and for my families personnal privacy and safety the Paper could not publish Our residence, neither take photos that would identify the exact location of our home, Specificaly for these types of reasons of harassment. What you don't know is where im from, the things i've faced and the personal attacks against me without knowing enough, If you don't have anybody to hate on, "FEEL FREE TO HATE ON ME!"-Quote. The personal attacks from these posts above mine are coming from people who hate me and would cause me any harm for satisfaction of their own downfalls and empty morals. I love my children as they do me. I served an Honorable term in the Army and at least I care with my life. my campaign name should be, "I can take it Can you Handle it?".. I'd like to thank all of the users who've helped me with your kind words of support. And to reasure them that they're good people who are still left in the world, and your one of them. Do The Right thing!

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