by James M. Wall
There are not many “good news” stories in politics these days. But a Florida woman, Henrietta Hughes, was central to one of the few “good news” moments that reached national attention in Fort Myers Thursday.
Huffington Post has the story with two videos, one with the beginning of the story, the other with the aftermath.
As Henrietta Hughes told the story to CNN, she had been unable to find work since 2003. She and her son Corey, have been homeless, sleeping wherever they could find a place to bed down.
Hughes had thought of writing the President to tell him her story. Then Hughes learned from her son that President Obama was to be in Fort Myers Tuesday. Someone told her she could stand in line and possibly get a ticket to see the President.
She stood in line for 12 hours. She got into the hall and was standing close to the platform where the president was speaking and taking questions. He called on her. Tearfully, she told Obama her story. (See the video here, posted by Huffington Post).
Hughes told the President she needed a place to live. Touched, he came over, kissed her and promised to have his staff look into her situation. What neither of them could have anticipated is that another woman, Chene Thompson, learned about Hughes’ meeting with the president.
Thompson is the wife of State Representative Nick Thompson (R-District 73). The first home Chene Thompaon had after college is in LaBelle, Florida, which is outside her husband’s state district. The Thompsons now live in Fort Myers. They are Catholics. Representative Thompson, an attorney, was first elected to the Florida legislature in 2006.
Thursday morning, Chene Thompson handed Henrietta Hughes the keys to her former home in Hendry County, Florida. Wink.com, an internet outlet for a Fort Myers publishing Company, reported that Hughes and her son were invited by the Thompsons to live in the LaBelle House rent free.
CNN’s interview with Henrietta Hughes and Chene Thompson provides a happy ending to the Hughes story. It is a story, however, that, in this present economic crisis is yet to find a final resolution.
Wink. com reports that Hughes and her son have been working with We Care Outreach Ministry, a faith based organization in Fort Myers, to resolve their homelessness.
Tanya Johnson, director of We Can Outreach Ministry, insists she has made offers to help Hughes, but the homeless woman insists Johnson’s offer was not free.
Henrietta Hughes says the We Care services were not free. The apartment in East Fort Myers came with a price tag. Hughes says Tanya Johnson wanted $400 a month immediately. The disability check Hughes gets is a little more than $800 a month.
Hughes owes money on a loan, has her car insurance payment, a monthly storage bill and says she couldn’t afford the rent. “Where was I going to get $400 a month to give her if I got these expenses,” Hughes told WINK News.
The Hughes story is one of a family living on the edge. Henrietta and her son lost their home in 2003, and began living in their car. In 2005, Henrietta and her son sold land they owned for $47,000 dollars. Chene Thompson says she understands the $47,000 was all the money the mother and son had to live on, in addition to their $800 monthly disability checks. The $47,000 is now gone.
Responding to criticisms from critics who say the Hughes are “milking the system”, Clare Thompon has become not only a Good Samaritan who is letting the Hughes’ live in her house. She is also their defender.
“They have nothing today. They need help today. They didn’t need help in 2005. They need help today. So whether they had $47,000 or $147,000 in 2005, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have any money today,” she said.
Clare and Nick Thompson are sorry Henrietta has to defend herself against the allegations of critics. They will continue to help her. They also hope it doesn’t deter other people from helping people in need.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. By chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”