Homeless Entrepreneurs

root - Posted on 26 January 2001

Leroy and Melissa Moore discuss the difficulty of working, running a business and even an organization while struggling with vehicular housing and homelessness

by Leroy and Melissa Moore

It’s a New Year but nothing is new for homeless entrepreneurs, low income, middle class folks, artists and other people trying to live, survive and thrive in the Bay Area.

We are all in a boxing match with the Bay Area’s muscle bound housing market. This endless match has caught many young entrepreneurs with a one two in the gut and an upper cut to the chin but we duck and dive the blows and hang on to the ropes for support. The San Francisco housing market could whip Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson’s butts.

What’s so sad is that many entrepreneurs and artists have been knocked out of the ring and given up on their careers in order to take on more than one job, just to live in this city. This situation has hit the Moore family in more ways than one.

Melissa and Leroy Moore are young African American entrepreneurs trying to make a difference in the most expensive city in this country, but they find themselves consistently on the borderline of being homeless and having to close their businesses.

For more than ten years, Melissa has provided day-care in the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco. She has raised many babies and has hired one or two employees to help her with the kids. However, during these ten plus years as a day-care provider she has experienced wrongful evictions, at times living with friends across the Bay or sleeping in her car with her dogs.

The boxing match began when Melissa was living on DE Haro Street. After two years of renting out and fixing up a gorgeous though run-down house, she read that the house in which she lived was being sold, and the open house was about to happen that afternoon. She found out about the open house in the local newspaper, not from her landlord. This started the cycle of living on a boot string.

Melissa’s next door neighbor, a 90-year old lady, saw Melissa’s big heart at work with the kids at her day-care and her consistent helping hand in the neighborhood community. So this elderly lady and her daughter invited Melissa to move her business- and herself- into this kind lady's basement. It was a great opportunity for both parties. Melissa watched over the elderly lady, and Melissa could set up shop in her basement.

One evening, Melissa went upstairs as she used to do every night to check on the eldely lady and found her face down on the floor. Melissa called her daughter, and that’s when everything changed. Once again, Melissa was hit with a low blow. The elderly lady’s daughter changed her mind about Melissa living there, wanting the house to herself after her mom passed away. After a month of verbal abuse Melissa got a lawyer. When it was all over, Melissa found herself out in the cold again, scrambling for a place to live.

Now, almost two years later, Melissa is still providing top notch day-care five days a week, but is living in her car with her three dogs. She is down to garbage bags full of her clothes, dog food and other basic needs. At 6:00pm she cleans her day-care, packs her stuff, feeds her dogs and looks for a quiet place where she can park her car and go to sleep.

Police and people in many neighborhoods have told her that she could not park and sleep in their neighborhoods. Many people complain about her dogs barking or being left in a car all day. The complaints got so bad that one day after work she discovered that her car was towed away and the dogs were taken to a shelter. Although times are rough for Melissa, one thing keeps her going, her baby, her own job which means seeing the smiles on the kids faces every morning.

Melissa’s brother, Leroy, has followed in her footsteps of being his own boss and also has faced the endless boxing match of being on the edge of homelessness. It all started in 1997 when Leroy decided to quit his job and start Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization, DAMO, the only organization in California that is run by and for disabled minorities. For almost three years Leroy and others have build this organization with no financial backing causing Leroy to do consulting work just to pay bills and keep DAMO going. Although Leroy is a home care provider to a young disabled teen and gets room and board in exchange for his duties, he is consistently walking a thin line between his government benefits, lecturer fees, consultant work and his small salary from the first grant that DAMO received this year.

With the reality of his sister being homeless, Leroy decided that he and his sister should put their resources together to find a place where Melissa can live and keep providing day-care and where Leroy could continue working on DAMO, his consulting, lectures and writing, the only problem is the prohibitive cost of housing . On top of everything else, Leroy, a college graduate never wanted to relay on government cash benefits. He is in danger of making too much in a month for disability benefits and his goals has out reach the confine rules of government disability benefits. The common advice Leroy always receives is to get a real job but if he does that it would eat into his organization, lectures and writing.

So what’s going to happen to the Moores? Like many young entrepreneurs, they will find another avenue to balance their careers with the brutal reality of living in a boxing ring called San Francisco. If you can help keep them from being homeless and keep their doors to their businesses open, please give us a call.


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