Families? We first need to move from people not even knowing family homelessness is a huge issue. Then the question arises — why are so many families homeless?
…why are so many families homeless?
The issue of family/youth homelessness barely makes a blip on newsfeeds, despite millions of kids and parents being homeless. I search a variety of news media daily for this topic. Current events suck the air out of other worthy topics, including homelessness. Too bad, because if we ever paid attention and addressed family/youth homelessness we’d all be better for it.
In their report on rural student homelessness, the Institute of Children, Poverty, and Homelessness pointed out:
Rural areas often have fewer homeless shelters, meaning that homeless students are more likely to have stayed in overcrowded, doubled-up living arrangements or unsheltered in places not meant for habitation, such as cars.
The issue of family homelessness, and overall child well-being, is illustrated on this ranking chart in the latest Kids Count report.
The circled states on the map are those I’ll travel through/near in my current HEAR US 2020 VisionQuest journey.
At the end of July, on my HEAR US 2020 VisionQuest journey, Nicole and her family (husband, 5 kids and their dog) crossed my path. They’ve been homeless since May, bouncing around a little north of Rt. 20 in SW Michigan where any assistance or shelters is sparse, to say the least.
Ironically, this is a large family, the subject of one of my most popular Medium Posts. But this family has a dad in the picture, too. Which is a big part of the problem as Nicole cogently explains.
Meet Nicole in my latest video, and spend 5 minutes listening to her describing their dilemma.
The key points Nicole makes are lost on our policymakers:
- If an agency pays for the motel, you’re considered “homeless” by HUD, and at least theoretically eligible for housing assistance.
- Agencies rarely pay for more than 1 week of help.
- Finding housing within that week’s time is virtually impossible.
- Many communities don’t have agencies providing this assistance.
- Those that do find their funds quickly run out.
- If families lose housing and stay in a motel on their own dime, they are not considered “homeless” by HUD. Therefore they are ineligible for housing assistance.
- Families need to provide a slew of documents, including birth certificates and proof of homelessness, to be eligible for assistance. This is a huge and common barrier.
- Families in crisis rarely know where to look for help, especially in rural areas. This ensnares them into the vortex of homelessness.
- Rural communities have little help for families in housing crises. The help they have is typically inadequate, they’re out of resources, or limited in time.
- The help needed to escape family homelessness is often modest — in Nicole’s family’s case, money to get birth certificates.
One systemic solution — passage of the Homeless Family and Youth Act (HR 2001). This bipartisan legislation will align HUD’s all-too-narrow definition of homelessness with one that other federal agencies use, which would make families like Nicole’s eligible for assistance.
This ongoing grassroots (no slick lobbyists) campaign to get this bill passed is gaining momentum!
But your member of Congress needs to hear from you on this! Here’s the link for more information and to take action.
Don’t, even for a moment, let yourself think this won’t happen. It must. It will. And we can do this hard, but essential thing to help Nicole, her family and millions of others in the same dilemma.
What would you want people to do if you and your family were in this predicament? Yeah. Do it!