It’s a sad fact of modern life that the number of people without a permanent residence to call their own are growing dramatically. According to the National Coalition For The Homeless, children under the age of 18 made up 39% of the population of homeless shelters, and 42% of those kids were younger than five. In addition, single mothers with minor children are the fastest growing group of people needing services from homeless shelters.
That means that an awful lot of people reading this blog have faced, or will face in the future the possibility of homelessness. If you are dealing with this , the most important thing you can do is to secure shelter for you and your children for tonight. If you can, secure it for after that, too, but sometimes you just need to deal with the immediate situation, before you can think about tomorrow. If you’re not sure where to go, contact 211 and they should be able to tell you the contact information for homeless shelters in your area. If you prefer, you can also find a list here: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/.
Types Of Homeless Shelters
There are several types of homeless shelters. Your needs will vary tremendously based on your employment status, the ages of your children, the area in which you live, and other factors. Obviously, if you are in a very cold area with young children, and you’re not working during the day, you’ll need somewhere safe to stay during the day. Your needs may be different if your kids are in school, you work during the day, and you just need somewhere to sleep, and perhaps an evening meal.
Emergency Homeless Shelters
Emergency homeless shelters are what people seem to be most familiar with. This situation will usually offers single beds, on a temporary basis. It is important to know that not every shelter will allow children, and when they do, children will typically be required to stay with their parent at all times. Most emergency shelters will not allow their residents to stay during the day, and will unlock their doors at a certain time each day, which may be different on weekends. Homeless shelters are usually available for free. Call ahead to verify their policies, hours, etc.
While here, you might be able to get case management services, which will refer you to other local services. This might include any state assistance you might be eligible for, other homeless shelters, and low-income housing. You should know that you will not always have the possibility of showers, and you should plan to be at this type of shelter as early as possible before they actually open the doors. Once their beds are filled, they are filled, and except for the most extreme weather, they cannot allow you to stay. Homeless shelters are known to fill up quickly, especially if they are near public transportation.
Day shelters exist to meet the needs of homeless people during the day. Some are only open during the winter and often serve lunch. You may also find some limited case management, including employment counseling here. You will rarely find any type of child-care here, but you will be safe, warm, and probably fed if you are here during the day.
Battered Women’s Shelter
It has been estimated that 63% of homeless women have been the victim of domestic violence at some point in her life. In addition, a study that surveyed 777 homeless women in ten U.S. Cities, 22% of those women said that they were homeless as the result of fleeing domestic violence in their most recent residence.
The needs of a woman leaving a violent situation can be very different from those of other homeless people. Some women leave the prior residence with nothing more than the clothes on their back, and do not have the extra time that is typically given before the eviction that the more typical homeless person receives. That is, of course, not including for the injuries that she may have.
If you need to find a domestic violence shelter (or safe place) , you might like this website: http://www.silcom.com/~paladin/madv/dvagencies.html. However, the same guidelines apply for you about 211. They will have information for other centers that are not listed on that website, as for whatever reason, some centers choose to only provide their confidential, toll-free, numbers locally.
It is also interesting to note that it is not uncommon for battered women’s centers to be willing to provide transportation assistance ( often fuel vouchers, if you have a car, or by paying for a bus ticket) for women in immediate danger.
This type of housing is a way for homeless people and families to move from homelessness to separate housing, but with some help. This is a form of subsidized housing, so you will need to meet their guidelines, which will usually include full time employment, a clean background check, and about 30% of your income going towards housing costs.
You will usually be allowed to stay in transitional housing for anywhere from six months to two years. While here, you will probably be required to participate in financial or group counselling. This is thought to encourage you to become more independent. You will often be referred to transitional housing from homeless or day shelters, and you will almost always have a waiting list. If you find more than one place with transitional housing, apply at them all. The more places you apply with, the sooner you could be in a better situation.
Permanent Affordable Housing
Permanent, affordable housing is the final goal of most people experiencing homelessness. As a result, it has the longest waiting list and is the hardest to get. In some places, you could have a waiting list of five to seven YEARS. You will usually be in transitional housing, proving your abilities to maintain employment and stay on a budget, while you are waiting for this end goal. If you fail to meet the requirements for transitional housing, you will almost never be approved for permanent housing.
That includes not working enough, inappropriate behavior, or breaking any of their rules more than once. It’s important to understand the guidelines that you are agreeing to, because if you don’t, you may be putting yourself back into the emergency shelters, and waiving any future help.
Once you get here, you will spend no more than 30% of your total income on living expenses, and will usually be allowed to stay as long as you’re still not making a lot of money. However, your stay may be capped in 5-7 years, or when your children are adults. This is considered to be a long-term solution for homelessness, and you will be in your own home or apartment ( not shared housing).
Some shelters are ran by the city, county, or state, while others are associated with religious organizations or civic groups. Because of the different agencies that are providing services, you may find that they seem to work together, or you may find that they are complete opposites that barely seem to acknowledge each others’ existence. Whether you need homeless services for a day, a night, or for the foreseeable future, you will need to be able to ask questions and advocate for yourself.
Homelessness is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people experience it each year, and those numbers can be expected to go up. You and your children can make it through this…you just may need a little help.