This Is Who We Are Now
This story was produced for Eddie Adams Workshop XXXIV, October 2021.
Lenora Lumpkin, 49, is a kinship provider to her grandsons, Donzelle (DJ) Crosby, 9, and Anthony Geiger, 6.
It is a chilly, overcast October afternoon in Columbus, Ohio; cutting through the gloom is the sound of rustling foliage and the cacophony of children at play from the backyard of Lenora Lumpkin's suburban home. Lenora takes a moment from packing a leaf bag and looks over at her two grandkids, DJ and Anthony, as they play.
"Although, I pray, and I cry every night taking care of them," she said. "I love to see the smiles on their faces, and that's what keeps me going."
Lenora was perfectly content with her life; she had a nice apartment and a job she enjoyed. But one day, she woke up, and God said to her, "move." Based on those instincts she moved out of her apartment and purchased a house. And after a few months, she received a call from her mother informing her that her two young grandsons were homeless.
Mental illness runs in Lenora's family. While she suffers from bouts of severe depression and anxiety, her three children face more severe diagnoses. But, DJ and Anthony's mother refuse to get help. A few years back, after losing her residence at a low-income housing facility, DJ, Anthony, and their mother found themselves living on the streets of Columbus. For a year or so, Lenora hadn't the faintest idea that her grandkids were homeless. So when she received the news, in an instant, she took them in. In August of 2018, Lenora became a kinship caregiver to DJ and Anthony.
She knew she could not let her grandchildren suffer, especially when she could give them a better life. When they arrived, they had nothing. Lenora rearranged her house, purchased new beds, clothes, shoes, and food for the kids, and began raising them. "I'm be honest, this is not what I wanted to do at 48-years-old," she said. "But the woman that I am — I am not gonna let them fail."
After the kids began living with Lenora, she fell into a deep depression. For over 10 years, she had been by herself, and now suddenly, she had to figure out how to take care of two hyper children, work a full-time job, and support them emotionally, physically, and financially. Moreover, she made too much money to get federal assistance for childcare and food stamps.
But, somehow, she managed. Just when she was starting to embrace this new chapter in her life, then she lost her job. The position she held for 15 years at the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center changed her hours, making it difficult for Lenora to raise two children. After multiple requests to have them accommodate her situation, they chose to let her go. Today, after months of looking for a job, she decided to choose her unemployment as a silver lining and spend more time with her grandchildren. "I now have childcare, food stamps, and Medicare for the kids," she said. "All because I am unemployed."
For the past three years, life has been a whirlwind of emotions, but she wouldn't have it any other way. As she continues to navigate hardships with a smile on her face, Lenora makes sure she gives her grandkids the life they deserve. "I don't know no other way but to be strong," she said. "Even when I'm weak, I know no other way but to be strong."