CORAL SPRINGS, FL – The coronavirus emergency swept like a financial tsunami through Guerline Williams’ life in Coral Springs, wiping out her family’s saving and forcing her to ask the community for help.
Weeks into the pandemic, the 44-year-old mother of three lost her job as a legal clerk. Then, her 44-year-old husband, Jean, lost his job as a driver.
That was just the start of the stress.
Jean’s unemployment triggered a mental health crisis that left him hospitalized twice, Williams said.
Williams also became an overnight caregiver to her other family members.
Her elderly father, who is recovering from cancer, and her mother suddenly couldn’t leave their home because of Covid-19. Williams now does their grocery shopping and much of their cooking.
And her 55-year-old sister, who suffers from mental illness as well, needs help with cooking and cleaning, so Williams visits her daily.
“I’ve been crying like a baby during these past weeks,” she said Thursday at her apartment before heading to Deerfield Beach to check on her sister.
Her story of losing so much since the virus outbreak was corroborated by Coral Springs police officials who have stepped in to help the family.
For the moment, Williams said her family is living off unemployment benefits and food stamps.
But they are three-and-a-half months behind on their $1,870-a-month rent for a three-bedroom apartment, she said.
And they burned through their savings at the beginning of the pandemic.
Williams is looking for a new job to work from home, but there are few openings she is qualified for, she said.
With nowhere else to turn for assistance, Williams called the office of the Coral Springs mayor. She soon got a call back from the Coral Springs police victim advocate Hilda Sagastume who suggested she call social services agencies.
Williams said she called and called but got no immediate assistance. She’ll keep calling.
Coral Springs police delivered food for her family and backpacks and school supplies for her three children, a 16-year-old and 14-year-old twins, Sagastume said.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Williams said.
Williams, who is known as “Lilly” to her friends, was calm and quick to smile as she sat at her dining room table in the tidy apartment across from Church By The Glades on Lakeview Drive, and discussed the distress in her life.
She said she has remained positive for the sake of her ill husband and growing teenage children.
“We are living on hope,” she said. “I pray every day.”
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