Life Turned Upside Down
Lohse’s story began about five years ago, when she left the day care business she owned and operated in Indiana to move with her husband to State College.
“It just started when my marriage got bad, when we were having problems,’’ she said, spreading frosting on a carrot cake-flavored batch of cupcakes. “I didn’t know anyone here, I didn’t have any friends. ... That’s when I went to the shelter.’’
She found it hard to deal with.
“I used to own a home,’’ she said. “I had my own business for eight years, I used to own a day care. I don’t live in shelters.’’
After the first week, Lohse and her three children had a daily routine: walking the Nittany Mall, up and down, up and down.
“My sister called while we were at the mall,’’ Lohse said. “She said, ‘Why don’t you open up a cupcake shop?’ And I really, I used some language that was not cupcakelike. ‘
“I don’t know if it was just her in my head, but everything I would start watching, I’d watch the news, there’d be cupcakes on the news,’’ she said. “I was like, holy cow, wait a minute. I don’t believe this. And so all the cupcake signs kept coming, and finally I said, you know what, I think this needs to happen.’’
Lohse spent a month at the Centre County Women’s Resource Center shelter, where counselors helped her find an apartment that was affordable, with a landlord who accepted her despite bad credit and little income.
Things began to pick up for Lohse. She was working toward the goal of opening her shop. Her landlord even gave her a job in the rental office to help pay her bills.
The good will didn’t last. Lohse says her husband refused to watch their children during the day, and she was forced to quit her job in the rental office or face a custody fight.
“And, when I quit that kind of left a bad taste in their mouth,’’ she said. Her lease was up for renewal in June, and she says her exhusband wouldn’t sign the paperwork to confirm Lohse was receiving support payments that would cover her rent.
Because of that, the landlord told her he wouldn’t renew her lease.
When she first became homeless, her business was in its infancy. She needed at least two bedrooms to provide space for her children on weekends, and she didn’t have the income to afford the $1,200-, $1,300-and $1,500-per month rentals she could find.
After she spent three months homeless – sleeping in her shop during the week and borrowing a friend’s home on the weekends so her kids had a place to play and sleep – family and friends offered some help. And Lohse was approved for vouchers from Veterans Affairs that would pay 85 percent of her rent.
Even so, she spent another two months sleeping on the couch in her shop because, she says, the eviction from a year ago was a black spot on her history, making landlords reluctant to rent to her.
Her business is now thriving. Lohse just filmed a segment for the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,’’ and she is settling into her new apart- ment.
The experience was rough, but Lohse said she considers herself lucky.
She’s heard stories about homelessness from several customers, including a woman who spent months Dumpster diving and a student who lived in her car.
The VA vouchers will pay most of her $1,100 rent for as long as she needs it. But Lohse said she wants to use them only long enough to save up enough for a down payment on a house.