Fam­i­lies turn to Craigslist for hol­i­day help

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Theresa Var­gas

The Wash­ing­ton Post

wash­ing­ton» The way Tyshika Brit­ten saw it, she had a choice. She could ex­plain to chil­dren who still be­lieve in Santa Claus that some years are harder for him than oth­ers. She could stand on the street with a sign and a bucket. Or she could turn to an unlikely place for help — Craigslist. She be­gan typ­ing. “I am a mother of six, 5 boys and 1 baby girl,” she be­gan. Then in a sin­gle para­graph, she laid out how her fam­ily would soon be evicted from their Mary­land home, how she had yet to buy a tree or gifts, how this was the first time she might not be able to give her chil­dren a Christ­mas.

“I’m so hurt,” the 35-year-old hair­styl­ist wrote. “I’m try­ing my best. I pray ev­ery­day and now I’m beg­ging for help. I know it’s not about the gifts, but they are kids! I’m such a fail­ure right now . . . please help me.”

At a time of year when the lines at food banks seem to be­come longer and the phones at non­prof­its ring non­stop, Brit­ten is not the only par­ent to ask for help this year on a site nor­mally used to find free fur­ni­ture and cheap ser­vices.

Across the na­tion, sim­i­lar pleas on Craiglist re­veal the pres­sure the holidays put on poor and work­ing-class fam­i­lies. Many al­ready strug­gle to pay bills and can feel over­whelmed by the ex­tra fi­nan­cial bur­den of gifts and trim­mings. Their post­ings tell of sin­gle mothers and un­em­ployed fa­thers. They list par­ents’ ail­ments and chil­dren’s ages. Some of­fer work in ex­change for help, while oth­ers promise blessings and ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

There is no way to tell how many are le­git­i­mate, just as there is no way to know if a post ad­ver­tis­ing free clothes is a lure for some­thing more sin­is­ter. But or­ga­ni­za­tions that work with fam­i­lies in need say they are not sur­prised that par­ents are look­ing ev­ery­where and any­where for help at Christ­mas­time.

“It’s a high-anx­i­ety time, and there is a bit of des­per­a­tion,” said Mark Bergel, the founder of A Wider Cir­cle, a non­profit in Sil­ver Spring, Md., which serves fam­i­lies in need. “Some folks will start call­ing for help with the holidays in May.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion, which of­fers sev­eral ways for fam­i­lies to re­ceive new toys, gets nearly 500 calls a day. This sea­son alone, the group will serve about 2,500 chil­dren and

Tyshika Brit­ten poses with her chil­dren, from left: Nazhia Bolden, 11; Don­nell Booker Jr., 8; Mor­gan Booker, 1; Chase Booker, 3; Ne­vaeh Bolden, 13; and Vashon Bolden, 15. Jonathan New­ton, The Wash­ing­ton Post

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