Barely a month
after a Montevideo, Minn., family opened their home
to a family of Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Louisiana,
there's been a painful parting.
Tracey and Tanya Thornbury were stunned by the
plight of people displaced by the disaster, so the
lesbian couple and their three children, who are all
white, opened their home to an impoverished three-generation
The Singletons--a mother, grandmother, and
six children who had never left the South
before--arrived in September to a warm welcome in the
western Minnesota city of 5,300 residents. ABC's
Good Morning America did a segment on the
But good intentions weren't enough to bridge the
families' different backgrounds or overcome the strain
of having 13 people under one roof.
Nicole and Dorothy (Dot) Singleton, the mother
and grandmother, have now broken ties with their hosts
and moved to the Twin Cities. But the families talk by
phone and hope they can forge a new relationship despite
a messy end to their old one. "We still love each other. You
can have a family feud and still love each other,"
said Tracey Thornbury, 38, a trucker who still calls
the Singleton kids frequently from the road.
Dot, 52, the grandmother, said she holds no
grudges against the Thornburys. "They've done a lot
for us," she said. "They brought us out of poverty.
But it was two different cultures. We just didn't click."
Tracey drove to Baton Rouge to pick up Dot and
the children in September. She saw immediately that
they came from different worlds. As she drove north,
she learned that the Singletons had never been outside
Louisiana. At one point, Esaw Singleton, 11, asked
about the furry animal in a field they had just
passed. Turns out it was a cow.
They got along at first. Montevideo rallied
around the families with donations and affection. But
goodwill gave way to tension.
About a week after the Singleton kids arrived,
there was a dispute over Tanya's computer. Two girls
wanted to use it to download hip-hop and rap music
from the Internet to make up for the lack of it on local
radio. Tanya said no, partly to protect her computer
from viruses and partly to preserve what was left of
her private space.
There were also charges that the Singletons
weren't doing their fair share of chores and clashes
over what kinds of movies the kids could watch.
Letters came from Nicole's boyfriend, who was in a Louisiana
jail for burglary. The Thornburys feared he would get
out on parole and come to Montevideo, so they read the letters.
On October 5, Nicole left for the Twin Cities.
She's living at a Roseville motel and working as a
housekeeper at another area hotel. Dot stayed behind
with the kids in Montevideo.
On October 16, they got into an argument. Tracey
thought Dot was implying that the Thornburys weren't
sharing the money that had been donated. The women
acknowledge that they yelled at each other, that Dot had
been drinking, and that Dot encouraged 16-year-old
Brittany to begin hitting Tracey. Tracey got Brittany
under control, then searched Dot's room. She found an
odd-shaped cigarette, thought it was marijuana, and called
police. Officers determined it was a regular cigarette.
Dot said the domestic violence was the result of
strain. "It just had got to that point. And the devil,
he just got in there between everybody with a match
and set things off," she said.
When it was time to leave with the kids, Dot
asked Chippewa County Family Services to assist. They
arrived in the Twin Cities on October 28 after Nicole
found a Twin Cities church offering a Minneapolis house
rent-free for a year to hurricane survivors. The kids,
she said, are settling in and attending school. The
family plans to stay in Minnesota. Dot said she misses
Montevideo and appreciates how much the town did for her and
the Thornburys. She said their decision to leave had
nothing to do with the fact that few black people live
in the area.
Tracey and Tanya still hope to celebrate
Thanksgiving with the Singletons. They don't regret
trying to help, though they said they wouldn't open
their home in the same way to others. "I'm not sure
what God is thinking about at this point," Tracey said. "If
it had any positive effect on the kids that they will
remember at some point, that's a good thing. They'll
know there are people who care." (AP)