Tony Tansey is a single father with a 4-year-old daughter, Kylie. Early in 2013, Tony was furloughed from his job as a cabinetmaker.
As a result, he was unable to pay his rent. Father and daughter moved to a motel, but after Tony was laid off from his job altogether, he quickly ran out of options.
Here he talks to Rev. Jan Bolerjack, the pastor of Riverton United Methodist Church in Tukwila about how he and Kylie came to live in her church.
TONY: The day I got laid off, I got home and I knew I had enough money for one more week to stay at the motel, and that was it. So I grabbed Kylie, my daughter, and went for a walk. And there was a church on the side of the road, and I walked in there, started talking to the receptionist about resources and if she knew of anything that I could do. Problem being most shelters are for men or women — it's not like I could bring a daughter into a men's shelter. So I got done talking to her, and kind of bowed my head when from behind me, a guy goes, “Hey, I heard your story.” His name was Al. Next thing you know, we're climbing in the back of his car and he's driving us up here to meet you.
JAN: Al brought us several people that we gave some shelter to or helped out. I remember you coming in with this gorgeous little girl and reflecting on how hard it was to stay in the motel and that you were looking to protect your child.
JAN: So you've been staying in a Sunday school room, sleeping on air mattresses on the floor, knowing that this is a community church and people come and go. It's been pretty tough, hasn't it?
TONY: It's better than the motel that I was staying in as a matter of fact. But trying to get a 4-year-old down to sleep when there's multiple things going on ...
JAN: Lots of loud music.
TONY: It's very hard. She needs her own room. I need her to have her own room.
JAN: From the outside it looks like it's an impossible situation, and yet you're holding out hope. Where do you get that hope from?
TONY: It's trying to keep her happy and smiling and the happy little girl she is. Little story: me and Kylie at the mall, and I looked at her I said, “Kylie, let's go home.” “What do you mean home, daddy? We live in a church.” “Kylie, but that's our home right now.”
As long as I can shut out the outside, I can make that area home as long as I'm with my daughter. Family is home. That's what's important. Nothing else.
As of April 2015, Tony and his daughter were living with friends and still in search of permanent housing.
Their interview was recorded as part of the “Finding Our Way” project. From 2014 to 2015, StoryCorps recorded over 90 interviews with families experiencing homelessness in the Puget Sound area. The work was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The recordings would not have been possible without partnership with the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish; Catholic Community Services of Tacoma; Seattle University’s Center for Strategic Communications; and many other organizations.
To learn how you can help, please visit Seattle University's Project on Family Homeless.
Produced by Eve Claxton for StoryCorps.
Consulting Producer: Dan Collison.
Music: "Light Touch" by Podington Bear. Found using the Free Music Archive.