Dennis Stover took off the mask of his nebulizer machine Friday morning and looked out the door of the motel room that was the only separation between him and sleeping in the weeds.
His $918 a month Social Security was gone for the month, for medications and oxygen and more. He didn’t have a buck.
There were no more televisions or other electronics around to repair for this 62-year-old electrician who drank anything in a can or bottle for decades until recent years of sobriety, and who smoked four packs a day for 40 years.
His health card is a nightmare: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, lung cancer.
“I have an apartment lined up but I can’t move in until January,” Stover said. “I took the money I normally pay for rent for a room to pay for the chemotherapy. I got 13 medications that I have to pay a co-pay. I’m broke.”
He made a last phone call on the welfare-issued phone that is paid for by taxpayers.
Mike Wallace, director of missions for the York Baptist Association, which coordinates the good works of scores of area churches, picked up the call.
Wallace also helps with Renew Our Community, a non-profit that helps indigents find work, training, support and a chance to live-self-sufficiently.
Wallace found another motel that would take Stover at about $40 a night. Along with another motel resident named Jennifer McCall, another in the transient life of these motels in Rock Hill, carried Stover’s whole life to another room in another place.
“I have seen Dennis be generous to other people, give him the food he had, so that kids would not be hungry,” said McCall. “This time he needs the help.”
Stover’s whole life fit in a few bags and boxes, plus the oxygen. A Crockpot to cook with, a tiny box with some tools – tools that once helped Stover make a few dollars, fixing televisions and more.
Wallace had enough money to pay for one night at the motel, but has to come up with the $40 per day until Stover can move into the apartment Jan. 3.
“These breathing machines are keeping Mr. Stover alive, and if he doesn’t have a place to live he won’t have electricity,” Wallace said. “We have to find a way to get him through until then.”
In area motels, Wallace estimated that at least a hundred families — some with small children — are living similarly, day to day, close to eviction, children living on the street.
“We are helping one family in another motel right now, a husband and wife who both work minimum wage jobs,” Wallace said.
“They have two kids, 2 and 1, and another on the way.”
Stover is looking forward to January and his next check, but he knew that Friday was the middle of December. There’s more than two long weeks to get through.
“I hope I make it,” he said.