Gastonia, N.C. — “As a child, I’d always say when I get older, I wanted to take care of the homeless,” said Lizzie Siegle, who lives in Gastonia. “Well as I got older, I said when I hit the lottery, I always wanted to do so much for the homeless”
While she hasn’t won the lottery, she did spend five and a half years gambling on where the safest place would be to spend the night with her three children after she left her ex-husband.
She estimates they cycled through at least six homes.
“It was like we was walking on egg shells, because you don’t want to get pushed out where the person is nice enough to let you live,” she said.
Her family’s experience is called “hidden homelessness” where families couch surf with relatives and friends and have no permanent address. It’s partly why there’s no reliable numbers tracking how many people experience it.
Seigle struggled to find work because she had a criminal record and she battled an addiction to alcohol. One of Siegle’s children was acting out and was sent to an alternative school, she said. There, her child told one of the counselors that their family was homeless and her mother struggled with alcoholism.
The counselor connected Seigle with the Hope Youth Network, who guided her through the process to eventually get a section 8 housing voucher.
“I was so grateful,” she said. “Before we got there, I kept telling my kids, if we be faithful a little, God is going to bless us with much.”
No longer stressing about how to pay her rent., Seigle is going back to school, serving with her church and working with Gaston County leaders addressing homelessness.
She says the county’s recent homelessness task force report is a good start to bring local resources together to find solutions, and she still has her dream to win the lottery and use those winnings to serve the homeless.
“I’m that person where if I win, I want everybody to win,” she said. “If I win the lottery, everyone’s going to win the lottery.”