Meet Delbra Myles, mother and leader of Parents United for Change.
Parents United for Change is a COFI project in East St. Louis, where many parent team leaders live in public housing. After purchasing their own appliances such as washing machines, dryers and air conditioners, they report having to pay excessive fines and fees in order to run those appliances in public housing.
“On top of my rent, I have to pay a fee every month to have a washer and dryer. And I have two window air conditioners and have to pay $9 extra for each one. I have to pay a $25 fee for trash in the yard, even if someone else put it there.
And if I’m just a couple days late with rent, they charge me $50. That’s almost a third of what I pay for rent!”
For mothers, like Ms. Myles, these hidden costs are devastating – resulting in massive debt for their families and preventing them from getting ahead or moving out of public housing.
“I don’t have a job outside the home. I have a friend who helps me out when I fall behind. My rent is $177. But add to that $8 for a washer-dryer, $18 to make it through our hot summers. That’s $26 extra, and it keeps getting higher.
And what are they doing with that money? I waited for two years to get my bathroom floor fixed. It was so rotten that I thought somebody might fall through.”
In East St. Louis, COFI-trained mothers and grandmothers are meeting with the public Housing Authority and others in the community to fight back against these excessive fees and fines.
Ms. Myles is one of hundreds of COFI-trained parent leaders fighting poverty as part of their Stepping Out of Poverty Campaign.
“I’m a 52-year-old mom, and I’ve lived in the same place for over 20 years. I am so proud to be working with other parents to put a stop to the crazy extra fees coming on top of the rent. We’re meeting with the Housing Authority in East St. Louis to make changes, because, with the extra fines and fees they throw on us, we can’t get ahead.”
At COFI, Ms. Myles began to see herself as more than “just a public housing resident.” She now realizes that she is a mother-leader who has real power when she comes together with other moms and grandmoms to make change in communities and in public policies.