By Barb Getty
It was a day like any other; a beautiful August evening, and I was attending an outdoor concert with a girlfriend – B.B. King, to be exact. Halfway into the second song, an event staff member got on the mic and said, “Barb Getty, please go to Security.” Within 20 minutes, I received news that would change me – and my life – forever.
My 17-year old son, Todd, had been killed in a car accident. His sisters were 16 and 14 at the time. His death was a devastating event for all of us.
Sadly, my 21 year marriage ended 8 months following Todd's death. Anne and Allison were grieving the loss of a big brother they adored, and the divorce of their parents was another crushing blow. Within a few short months, I’d lost my son and my marriage, and had to find a home for my girls and me in order to keep them in their neighborhood school. There wasn't much I could afford. I bought a 1970s beauty with nasty green shag carpet and dark dingy paneling. Definitely a fixer-upper. Pleased with the end result, I jumped into the world of real estate investing.
This was my turning point. With little money, no credit and no experience, I purchased my first duplex shortly after my divorce, hoping I had the wherewithal to be a landlord. And now, 15 years later, I have 27 units (single and multi-family) in the inner city. My tenants are mostly low income individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. Many of them have had run-ins with the law, physical or mental health issues, and other barriers that prevent them from finding housing and making a better life for themselves. (Click here for a look at scenes I face as a landlord in the inner city. It's very compelling.)
I give people a second chance at successful tenancy, even if they have prior evictions. I feel the hardships in my own life have provided me with an extra measure of compassion for what others have had to face. My older daughter has dealt with drug addiction/alcoholism and has many years of sobriety now. My younger one has mental health issues that have resulted in three suicide attempts and two recent stints in treatment facilities.
I haven’t had an easy road but I love what I do. I’m financially and emotionally invested in my work, and feel this is what I was meant to do. There's no shortage of excitement when you're a landlord in the inner city, but armed with a strong sense of humor and a positive attitude, I'm making a difference in my tenants' lives, the neighborhood and the city, as well.
I’ve found peace, happiness and acceptance through not worrying about the things I can’t control. I take one day at a time, and my life has purpose and meaning. And oddly, Todd's death was the catalyst for everything. I’ve had more than my share of challenges, but I know Todd would be proud of my path to acceptance.