In 2007, Franklin Gilliard and his wife, Sherry, a teacher’s aide, started their own business: a driving school. Shortly after, they were hit by the recession.
The couple worked hard to stay afloat, but they found themselves drowning in past-due bills and late notices, and they became homeless in 2013. Sherry and Franklin sat down with StoryCorps to talk about their experience.
FRANKLIN: We had the car re-possessors there. We had the bank knocking on the door. You just feel like you're a prisoner in your own home.
SHERRY: You would never think that that would be your routine -- looking out the peephole before you walk outside every day. Now, since that has happened, I can't even hear a knock without my heart jumping.
FRANKLIN: We did call the bank and tell them that we needed some help with our loan, because we started getting behind on our mortgage.
SHERRY: But we just could not even dig with a shovel out. Before you knew it, we were homeless. I remember going to REI and looking at tents that will hold a family of five.
And then I remember at the homeless shelter, when they escorted us to our room, I remember laying on the bottom bunk and looking up at the springs that you look at on a bunk bed. And I remember saying to myself, “How did I get here?”
You know, I remember walking to the shelter after work at school, and, you know, the school bus was pulling up and I knew the school bus driver. I remember pulling my hood over my head because I was embarrassed — I didn't want her to see me, you know. Or a colleague says, "We're going to go volunteer and we're going to feed the families," and it would be at my shelter. And I would tell my husband, "We cannot be here for Sunday dinner because the colleagues from my job are going to be serving food.”
FRANKLIN: We're living in transitional housing right now and we like where we live at.
SHERRY: Now we have at the dinner table the circle of thanks and each one of us go around and we say what we're thankful for. Our boys, they're at the stage in which they're thankful for their Pokémon cards. But we're thankful that we can come together with our food, with the lights on, with the heat on. Knowing that we are to be blessed to wake up another day.
Franklin and Sherry Gilliard are still working to find permanent housing. He is now training to be a certified nursing assistant.
Their interview was recorded in partnership with Catholic Community Services of Tacoma, as part of the “Finding Our Way” project, which recorded stories with families experiencing homelessness in the Puget Sound area. 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 for StoryCorps by Allison Davis and Eve Claxton.
Music: “Flitter Key Backwards Beat” by Podington Bear, found using the Free Music Archive.