Raleigh homeless woman once worked at IBM in New York

Posted March 7, 2012

— Cris Kent never imagined she’d be homeless, living in a truck with her brother. The 64-year-old Raleigh woman once had a finance and purchasing job at IBM in New York. She moved to North Carolina when her job was downsized, but her life quickly crumbled.

Instead of retirement, Kent said she now thinks about where she will sleep at night. After moving to North Carolina, she had a job and a house in Johnston County with a few acres. Her steady employment dried up, and she lost her home to foreclosure, crushing her credit.

Food stamps, a Social Security check and a modest IBM pension couldn't stop the cycle of bouncing from motel to parking lot.

“If you've had riches, it's very hard to swallow going to rags,” Kent said.

When she can’t scrape together enough money to stay in a hotel, she lives in a truck with her brother, who declined to be interviewed by WRAL News.

“This is it, 45 years of work, nothing, nothing,” Kent said, pointing to boxes of her belongings.

She refuses to stay in a shelter, she says, because she wouldn’t be able to keep her cockatiels, which has owned for more than 20 years.

“I’ve lost too much. There’s no way I’m giving them up,” she said.

Kent is working with Triangle Family Services and says she hopes to get a job and an apartment. First, she needs to get new identification, which is necessary to secure housing. Kent said she let her ID expire.

Cris Kent, homeless Raleigh woman Former IBMer living out of truck in Raleigh

Julie Sager, financial stability program director at Triangle Family Services, says she "didn't used to see so many successful, college-educated people."

“We see a lot more of those now than we ever did," she added.

Keeping a headcount on the homeless can be tricky. Groups that work with the issue estimate there are 2,000 homeless people on the streets in the Triangle on any given night. Those who are on the move and don’t ask for help can be some of the toughest homeless people to track down.

Kent says the uncertainty of where she'll be next wears on her and so does the constant reminder of how far she's fallen.

“I mean, I had it and I lost it, and it could happen to anybody,” she said.

How to help:

If you would like to help Cris Kent, please contact Triangle Family Services.


WRAL reporter Cullen Browder has an update about a homeless couple he recently interviewed, John and Lee Venable of Raleigh. After their story aired, the community opened their hearts and wallets, triggering a tsunami of generosity that helped the couple. But the stress of homelessness has caused marital problems for the Venables, which has complicated their search for a home. One or both of them need jobs to qualify. A temp agency is trying to help Lee Venable find work, and Triangle Family Services is still working with her. For now, the couple hasn't gotten into permanent housing.


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  • orange17k2 Mar 16, 2012

    You know what, who cares what anyone has, does not have. The woman obviously is having some sort of trouble and she went to reach out. WRAL, ran the story, I'm sure they did their paperwork. I personally see people who go back to homes after standing on corners, begging for money. Smoking, eating McDonald's. My call to Cris, go on a corner with a sign. You should would get more help. Good Luck Cris, my prays are with you. Check with Family Services,we donated in your behalf.

  • roseviking Mar 15, 2012

    Our income is low also but we still can't get food stamps. I am fully aware of the paperwork that needs to be filled out to get food stamps and other aid. It still doesn't make sense that if she has two monthly incomes, she doesn't have a place to live. I don't feel my comment was heartless only trying to make sense of why she is homesless with two incomes plus whatever monies her brother is probably bringing in. If she is getting food stamps, then she should be able to get low income housing that the government helps with so she would have a place to live.

  • orange17k2 Mar 15, 2012

    She getting food stamps, because, her income is to low....dah!!! They ask for paperwork, before, they award you food stamps. I use to work for social services. You did not get them,.because, as you stated, your married...two incomes. IBM use to pay well, those days are long gone. Another uninformed heartless commented. Be grateful you are blessed.

  • roseviking Mar 15, 2012

    It is hard to feel sorry for someone who is receiving Social Security and a "modest" IBM pension which has to be a decent amount knowing how well IBM pays. Surely, these two incomes is sufficient to pay her monthly expenses. My husband and I are living on Social Security. We have a nice home which has a monthly house payment along with our other expenses and we manage to do okay. I am wondering how she is getting the food stamps with the two incomes because we can't.

  • orange17k2 Mar 14, 2012

    So, she gets rid of the birds, where do you suggest she goes???.A homeless shelter with drug addicts and mental people, who for years roamed the streets. Name the safe haven trutarblu??? lookappropriate sounds more racial. I hope they connect. GOD forgive I was ever in trouble and needed to count on these headcases that write stupid and heartless comments on this site.

  • lookappropriate Mar 14, 2012

    Hello fellow human-beings, please remember that hardship can befall anyone rich or poor, so please have some compassion for others and that will take you through a blessed life. I am willing to open up my home to her, her birds and brother should she be willing to come and stay with me, I am from New York also and that has nothing to do with helping anyone because it is giving that we receive and remember do unto others as you have them do unto you. I moved here almost 9 years ago because I ran away from a battered marriage and I am so bless and highly favored, that I cannot give enough praise and thanks to my Father above for his blessings, strength and guidance. I am looking forward in meeting Ms. Chris Kent soon. God don't give us more than we can bear, he tries our faith to see how much we can bear and if he sees that it is too much he will take some of that load off and he does.

    Be Bless

  • trutarblu Mar 14, 2012

    Having birds is more important that having a bed to sleep in? Wake up! Cris is making a CHOICE not to have a place to sleep...dont feel sorry for her at all.

  • Z Man Mar 12, 2012

    cockatiels - well there's 2 meals she wouldn't have to sponge off the taxpayers. Tastes like chicken!

  • Z Man Mar 12, 2012

    Just what did Kent do to plan her retirement? IBM provide a nice 401K plan where they match a certain percentage of what an employee elects to save. How much did Kent withhold? I'd bet she had nothing withheld. What about other forms of savings? Roth IRA... basic savings account. Sounds to me like Kent simply wasted her decent income away. I wonder if she lived high on the hog driving Mercedes and taking cruises. I don't feel for her at all.

  • orange17k2 Mar 12, 2012

    Arthur in the Garden, well we finally got someone on here that has a set of brains!!! To you and a few others, humanity salutes you.