MANCHESTER, NH – Tammy Chambers had been living in an apartment in Goffstown for five years. She had every expectation of living there another five. Then, without warning, an avalanche of misfortune fell upon her.
She found herself evicted from her residence after a negative experience with her landlord. The sheriff came to remove her, her husband, and their pets from the property. Since then, they have been homeless – despite having a consistent and reliable source of income.
The trouble started when she was notified that her lease would not be renewed. In the middle of a pandemic, she had 30 days to find a new place or face eviction. This opened up a world of uncertainty for her; she had no idea where she would go or what she would do. She went to court with the landlord; the judge ruled against her. Although there was an appeal process in place, she missed the filing deadline by five days.
Shortly thereafter, she found herself with no place to live, and no idea where she would rest her head at night. This left her with no choice but to scramble for another place to live immediately. She and her husband grabbed whatever they could, and left.
“At some point, you just want a roof over your head,” Chambers said. “You become desperate, almost. Because homelessness is so difficult, you know? You’re dealing with a lot of things.”
Her first idea was to get a pop-up camper and live at a camping site in Derry. The first one she received, a gift from a friend, had holes in the roof which leaked during rain. A small dog at a nearby campsite barked incessantly on their first day there.
“I was there for three weeks, things were going great. However, I will tell you this: do your research on the campground you’re going to. If I had read the reviews, I might not have chosen that campground. A week into staying there, it was very challenging. Our car broke down, the transmission, so we were stuck out in Derry. Both my husband and myself work, so you have to rely on people who will hopefully pick you up.”
The campsite she chose, Hidden Valley RV & Golf Park, looks like an idyllic place to spend the summer relaxing with nature all around. Golf carts putter along dirt paths while the convivial sounds of conversation can be heard from just about anywhere. Happy children of various ages play in whatever space they can find.
The unique smell of a wood campfire can sometimes be detected, followed shortly thereafter by roasting meat – often fish. The campground is tucked away in the woods among a series of back roads in Derry, bracketed on either side by an endless canopy of trees. Motor homes and tents are found everywhere in abundance at the site, along with pickup trucks hauling campers of various shapes and sizes.
The campground charges $250 a week. Tammy and her husband paid $750 during their time there. This happened in the midst of other financial difficulties.
Repairing the transmission in her car cost upwards of $3,000. She also is also trying to figure out a security deposit on a new apartment, which she anticipates could be $1,000 or more – on top of continuing payments on a new campsite she plans to move into.
Accordingly, with the advice of friends, she has considered opening up a GoFundMe page. At first, she was skeptical about asking for any amount of money.
“Your pride gets in the way, you know?” Chambers said. “When it comes to helping others, that’s easy for me. But helping myself has always been more difficult.”
She describes herself as a pet lover and a person with a lot to give. She previously worked at the New Horizons shelter in Manchester, assisting participants there with their daily needs. She has also worked for the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), advocating for parental rights and a fair process during adjudication.
She describes herself as a person with PTSD, a survivor of domestic violence from her ex-husband. After being physically beaten and abused, she didn’t believe she would survive. When she visited the hospital, they gave her painkillers for her injuries, which led to a heroin addiction. She has since overcome her addiction and advocates compassion and patience for anyone going through a similar circumstance. Rather than choosing to look at her situation as her own personal failing, she chooses to see it all as a learning experience.
Chambers recognizes the campground in a pop-up camper is not a permanent solution, especially during winter months. Many campgrounds in New Hampshire are not open year-round. Those that are, often require a camper in which a person may reside.
For her, going to a shelter would require giving up her pets and not being able to sleep in the same bed with her husband. Neither of these options sounds appealing to her; what is more, she came away with a negative experience from her time at New Horizons and is reticent to go back.
Through it all, she tries to keep a smile on her face. While her faith has been tested in various ways, her experiences of late have convinced her, more than ever, to put her trust in her creator. The help she receives is evidence to her that good people do exist in the world. Each act of kindness, however small, has made all the difference.