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Raleigh homeless woman once worked at IBM in New York

Posted March 7, 2012 3:52 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2012 7:15 p.m. EST

— 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.

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.


Update:

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.