Family struggles to remain a unit
By Judy Masterson email@example.com November 21, 2012 8:10PM
Siblings Elizabeth Hoye (left), 16, Derricka Benjamin, 5, Terenza Foster, 22, Xavier Glass, 11, and Artaysha Jones, 18, have struggled to maintain a family unit since the death of their parents. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Want to help?
Terenza Foster is thankful, in advance, she said, for anyone who can help her keep her family together. Contact her at (224) 214-9547.
Updated: January 21, 2013 1:58AM
She’s a mom, a provider, a worrier-in-chief for four handsome, courteous kids who say they’re thankful they’re together — and really mean it.
But Terenza Foster, 22, did not come by her children in the usual way. She inherited them the day her mother died.
Artaysha, 18, Elizabeth 16, Xavier, 11, and Derricka, 5, are her siblings. They became her responsibility through a series of losses — the deaths of the three adults who once took care of them, including her mother, Norvaleane Hoye, who struggled with drug addiction before succumbing three years ago to lung cancer.
“I told her I would do my best to keep us together,” said Foster, of North Chicago.
But that promise has not been easy to keep. The family’s struggles first intensified after their maternal grandfather, Rev. Freddie Hoye, who pastored St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Waukegan, died in 2006.
“He was not only our grandfather, but also our sole provider,” Foster said.
Ten months later, Lillian Hoye, their grandmother, suffered a stroke. She died in 2010.
Foster rented an apartment in Zion, where the children enrolled in school. She earned a GED and in fall 2011, enrolled in a local college. Social Security survivor benefits for three of the children barely covered the rent and Foster “robbed Peter,” using refunds on her student loans, to help pay the bills.
The siblings were forced to move in June after their two-flat was foreclosed. They have been homeless ever since — staying with relatives, renting bedrooms and spending a recent week in a Lake Bluff hotel paid for by Shields Township.
“When you’re all in one room, it gets very chaotic,” said Foster,
“It’s stressful to go to school, then go to wherever we’re staying and deal with stuff,” said Elizabeth. “It’s all you can think about.”
The survivor money now amounts to $518 per month. Foster and Artaysha, who still hasn’t graduated high school, recently found telemarketing jobs in Buffalo Grove, earning $8.25 an hour. But until they receive their first paychecks, and because they don’t have a car, they’re borrowing money so they can buy gas for a co-worker who drives.
Four of the siblings are currently staying with a cousin who has five children. Derricka is living with her father. For various stretches, Xavier, has also “slept somewhere else.”
But being apart is not acceptable to Foster, or to the other children of Norvaleane Hoye.
“We need to be together,” Foster said. “By any means necessary, I’m going to show these children how to become productive, independent people, so their children won’t have to experience the things they had to growing up.”
Artaysha said she’s grateful for her older sis.
“Without her, we’d be split-up,” she said. “She’s a really strong woman. I really respect her for what she’s doing. She doesn’t have to do it.”
Foster has sought and accepted short-term assistance from various agencies. The family is on a waiting list for a housing voucher, which could take years to materialize. Daisy Brooks, founder and CEO of Daisy’s Resource Center in North Chicago, and another family friend, Elma Greathouse, are helping out.
Brooks, who operates an alternative school for grades nine through 12, has seen Foster’s predicament before, “but not this severe,” she said.
“We have several students whose parents are dead, who are homeless, staying with friends, running from house to house,” Brooks said. “I see one or two girls a week who need a place because they’ve been put out of their homes.”
The family has a lead on an apartment in North Chicago, and they’re looking for help to make the first month’s rent and the security deposit. Foster wants to take more college classes — “Without an education, it’s hard to do anything,” she said — but first she has to come up with the $500-plus she owes for failing to drop a class by a deadline.”
“My whole life, my mother and grandmother struggled to keep us together,” Foster said. “I’m doing what I know my mother would want me to do.”