CHICAGO – After Hurricane Katrina evacuee Keisha Moran appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," members of the St. Paul United Church of Christ offered her their parsonage rent-free so the pregnant, single mother could start over.
Almost a year later, the suburban Chicago church wants Moran out by the end of the month. Moran said she and her three young children have nowhere to go.
"I feel like it's coming across that maybe I'm ungrateful, but that's not it," Moran said Friday. "I'm not asking them to give me money, I just don't have a roof to put over my children's head."
The story started out as a feel-good example of a community reaching out to a woman who didn't have any options. But it has turned into a nasty argument with the sides disagreeing over when Moran should leave.
Moran said she has until Dec. 31. The church wants the 23-year-old Waveland, Miss., native to leave by Aug. 31 — along with daughters Kaejiah, 5, Keziah, 1, and son Kaedin, 4 months.
"After a year of supporting her in every way, it's just unfortunate," church spokeswoman Terry Ryan said. "Our church had an outpouring of support for this family."
Moran was living in a tent in a Mississippi parking lot when she appeared on Winfrey's show to talk about the hurricane, which devastated the Gulf Coast when it struck on Aug. 29. More than 1,800 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.
Officials offered Moran a two-story, three-bedroom house next to the church in Palatine, 26 miles northwest of Chicago. Workers refurbished the 110-year-old house for free and the family moved there in late September. And, Ryan said, for "the first three months we just gave her a place to recover, no questions asked."
When she moved in, Moran said, officials never told her how long she'd be able to stay. "I did not at any time think they were giving me this house," Moran said. "They told me I could stay until Dec. 31 rent-free and pay the utilities, and then we'd work out the rent."
But Ryan said the church had a verbal agreement with Moran that she'd be able to stay until June 2006, when everyone would meet to "revisit" the matter. The church said in a statement Friday that members tried multiple times to meet with Moran and create a lease that "reflected the verbal agreement."
"She never responded to our numerous requests for that meeting," the statement said. "For that reason, there was no written, signed agreement."
In October, Moran got a job doing clerical work at a company that sold videos and toys on the Internet, but she said she left because her boss lost his job. She has since stayed home to raise the children.
"She had several other job offers through the winter and spring that she declined to accept," Ryan said. "I think she would have become more independent (if she had gotten another job)."
Moran said she owes a lot to the people who donated furniture, money and clothes. But she doesn't know how she'll raise the money to move back to Mississippi or for a security deposit on a home.
"It's not that I'm ungrateful, if I could give back to everybody, I don't know how I could ever repay them," Moran said. "I'm just sorry it's come to this."