Katie Knox of Jasper, 13, waited to give the paper hat she made for her father, James, as he worked on cleaning and checking the air conditioning units at the Jasper Inn. The Knox family, which also consists of James’ wife, Melissa, and his son, Chris, 17, lived in a room at the Jasper hotel for nearly a year, followed by the Camelot Inn for a few months, as they struggled with finances and finding a rental home. “I’m not happy about living in a hotel right now,” James said. “At least it is a roof over their head.”
“When you get four people — two adults, two children — in one room, it was too close quarters,” James said. “It was frequent arguments,” he added as one person would want to do one thing while the other would want to do another thing. During their stay at the Camelot Inn in Jasper, the family managed to get their hands on two TVs for their room. Chris played video games while the other three watched a show on the other TV.
Katie washed dishes in the bathtub at the Jasper Inn.
Melissa sat for Katie in their hotel room at the Jasper Inn so Katie could show her a new braid she learned.
“Some kids would say ‘You live in a hotel? Cool,’” Katie said. “Whenever you live in it for a year and a half, you won’t think it’s cool.” Katie and Chris’ school bus dropped them off in front of the Jasper Inn after school.
“We were about to kill each other at the end of the day,” Chris said about living in a hotel room as a family. Katie tried to pull Chris’ boot off while he tried to check his phone. Chris would often leave the room and find a quiet place in the hotel for privacy.
“The way we have been working the past few days, I figured we deserved this,” James said about grilling outside of the Jasper Inn. In celebration of Melissa’s birthday, James purchased the grill so he could grill for the family.
For several weeks, Katie's glasses frame were held together by tape as James waited unti he had the money to buy her new ones.
In addition to his full-time job at Jasper Engines and Transmissions, James would spend most evenings doing maintenance work at the Jasper Inn to help pay for a portion of their hotel room cost. James worked on repairing door locks while Katie watched videos on her device. Despite James working the two jobs and Melissa working at least one, the Knoxes still struggled to keep their family afloat. Often when they thought they might be getting ahead, something happened that pulled them behind again.
In the year that the Knoxes lived in the Jasper Inn, the family had to change rooms and move their belongings five times. On the fifth time, the hotel owners allowed the family to use two rooms next to each other. Katie followed along behind James as they moved their belongings into the new rooms.
“We want these kids, unlike us, to have a college education,” Melissa said. “We want them to be something because we know they have it in them.” Melissa graduated from high school, but James dropped out when he was 16 and completed his GED at 19. “I started to go to college. But life kind of punched me in the gut and I winded up missing that,” James said. Melissa lay on a heating pad to help with her back pain while she and Katie watched TV.
The Knoxes moved from one room to another room in the Jasper Inn for the fifth time, which proved to be stressful for Melissa. “These are the times I want to become an addict again,” she said while taking a break during the move. For several years, Melissa struggled with abusing pain medications and has gone through rehab for the issue. She has been clean now for 18 months. During the move, Katie found the fake rose and gave it to her mother.
In order to maximize what little space they had in their hotel room, the Knoxes fit their items into bins that could fit in every available space from under the sink to under beds. Chris dug through a bin looking for an extra prepaid cellphone to use in place of his broken phone.
While living in the hotel with little space to keep fresh food, or even microwaveable food, the Knoxes often had to resort to eating fast food. Chris, Katie and James picked up slices of pizza from a Huntingburg gas station while out doing laundry at the laundromat.
After living in a hotel and a motel for over a year and a half, the Knoxes finally found a rental home to move into. The Knoxes unloaded a van-full of their stuff as they moved into the home.
Greater Jasper Schools’ Caring Cats program helps to identify students who are in need of assistance. Jasper High School staff took Katie shopping for new clothes at Carson’s in Jasper. She struggled to decide which tops she liked.
After learning how to do handstands by watching instructional videos on YouTube, Katie attempted to do one in the front yard of their rental home in Jasper. “A comfort zone. That’s what I would consider this. A comfort zone,” James said about the rental house. “My main goal is I want to own my own house.