Kaleigh uses Craigslist for “everything.”
She found her car on Craigslist. She found a babysitting gig on Craigslist. When her chihuahua puppy ran away, she posted a notice on Craigslist.
And when the 18-year-old got pregnant and found herself at odds with her stepfather, she found a new home—a filthy and damaged trailer off Cerrillos Road that didn’t require a security deposit—on Craigslist.
Currently seven weeks pregnant, Kaleigh applied for food stamps through the New Mexico Human Services Department and she receives prenatal care through Medicaid.
But for everything else she needs, Kaleigh once again turns to Craigslist.
On Feb. 10, Kaleigh—who asked that her last name be withheld—wrote a post on Craigslist titled, “Pregnant teen and her sister need help,” explaining that she and her 17-year-old sister had been kicked out of their parents’ home.
“ive been praying to god for help and a very nice woman told me to try this,” Kaleigh wrote in the “items wanted” section of the Web site (tinyurl.com/d4e5hn). “we need things like food toilet paper shampoo all that and i also need a bed… i just wanted to throw that out incase anyone had things laying around not needed.”
Craigslist didn’t let her down: In the two weeks since she posted, Kaleigh has had her choice of offerings, from box springs to parenting classes.
In the 14 years since its inception, craigslist.org has become the planet’s most popular site for free classified advertising. However, as the economy tumbles, the ads are becoming less about help wanted and more about help needed.
“In the last six months, we’ve seen a significant increase in postings on Craigslist where users are asking fellow members of the community for help in making it through these dismal economic times,” Craigslist spokeswoman Susan Best told USA Today in February.
Hotel Santa Fe employee Angelique Angel has noticed the trend as well, particularly posts on the Santa Fe/Taos Craigslist board last year from Hurricane Ike evacuees. Normally, Angel isn’t one for volunteer work, but as a member of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe youth group Search for Christian Maturity, she was struck.
“Honestly, what caught my attention was that she said she’d been praying to God,” Angel tells SFR. “I was just browsing through the wanted items—I do that every once in awhile just to see, because there’s always good stuff on there—and I came across her ad. I happen to be doing some work in my house right now, so I have a couple of extra couches and a coffee table, so I called her up.”
It turned out that the sisters needed more than furniture. Angel called one night and learned Kaleigh and her sister were shivering in the trailer because the two didn’t know how to ignite the heater’s pilot light.
“Angelique was like, ‘I’ll be right there,’ and she and her friends came over at midnight and brought us food, lit our pilot, started cleaning,” Kaleigh says. “They were really helpful and really cool. They weren’t just like, ‘Oh, here, let’s drop this stuff off on you.’ They call us every day and see if we want to hang out with them.”
The ad also caught the attention of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Santa Fe, a nonprofit organization that offers “abortion clinic alternatives” including parenting classes and financial help to young mothers.
“I saw that posting on Craigslist and even though Craigslist says you’re not supposed to contact people with services, I couldn’t resist calling,” Director Lisa Scrafford tells SFR. “I wish she would call me back and come in and see us.”
Kaleigh says she isn’t interested in taking courses or going through programs in exchange for assistance.
“The way I look at it is that people have been having babies since the beginning of time and they didn’t have to go sit through a baby class, so why should I?” Kaleigh says. She is not in a relationship with the father, who lives in Rio Rancho.
Two weeks after posting the ad, Kaleigh says she’s still getting calls. She’s been offered everything from box springs for a bed (but no mattress) to a set of small televisions that she was told she could sell to bars for cash.
“We don’t need a rotisserie oven, but now we’ve got one and that’s cool,” Kaleigh says. “I’m going to update [the post] with what we’ve gotten…I don’t need a bed anymore and I know that’s a big thing to people.”
Kim Posich, executive director of the New Mexico Center for Poverty and Law, says that New Mexicans can expect to see an increase of these kinds of informal requests for help.
“I think it’s a good thing that people are helping each other as long as it works,” Posich says. “Medicaid and food stamp enrollment is growing and there are still people that are not making it through the system even though they’re eligible…The formal system just doesn’t provide the help to meet the demand.”
That demand includes young mothers. In 2006, the nationwide teenage pregnancy rate increased for the first time in more than a decade. University of Pennsylvania researchers also found that teenage mothers are disproportionately poor: Two-thirds live at or below the poverty line at the time of birth. With 64 births per 1,000 teenage girls, New Mexico has the second highest teenage birthrate in the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Indeed, Kaleigh says she won’t need to look for baby clothes on Craigslist: Three of her friends are currently pregnant and she plans to share with them. Abortion, however, only barely crossed her mind.
“I’ve had many friends that have gotten them and it has messed them up bad, like bad in their head. Not physically, but mentally they have a lot of issues,” she tells SFR. “I don’t think I could do it ever. If I was living in my car, at that point I might, but even then I probably wouldn’t.”
But Kaleigh isn’t set on being a mother either.
“I don’t want to depend on people when I’m going to have something depending on me,” she says. “If I’m eight months and I don’t have a job at that point, I would not feel right keeping a child not being able to provide for it.”
But that’s one thing she won’t put on Craigslist.
“Um, no. That would be a little scary.”