invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 1,500,000 kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

HUD--the Homelessness Creation Agency?

My good faith gets shaken on a regular basis, and when it involves the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, aka HUD, it really flaps wildly. What I'm yammering about is a policy that leaves a formerly homeless family damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Tina, the courageous mother I've written about over the past couple years, and her 6 young boys, live in a modest house trailer in Las Cruces, NM. First I blogged about the family's bleak situation after I found them living in a 13' beater-camper-trailer--mom and her 5 baby boys. Stimulus money came about, giving communities funds to help move families like Tina's into housing. Then  I blogged about the difficulties finding a landlord to rent to this large family. She finally found the landlord with the trailer. But...

Her next struggle came transferring into Section 8 (subsidized housing), not because she wasn't in need or qualified (she got through the eye-of-the-needle exam at the HUD-regulated public housing authority), but because...she has bad credit. Yup. Bad credit.

In her previous married life, she incurred a penalty of about $5,200 for unreported income with the public housing authority. She was in the process of getting her then-husband reinstated on the lease (he apparently talked her into it after putting her in the hospital), and Tina's brother moved in before being okayed by the PHA. Tina and her kids left her abusive ex, but now she gets saddled with that past debt--a barrier to keep her and the kids from qualifying for public housing.

Hubby (now ex), 1/2 the gene pool, apparently doesn't have to assume his share of this debt. Mom and kids struggle mightily, comply with copious regulations, scrimp and scrape to keep together and out of the shredded child welfare "system," and she's got to pay the whole $5,200. It gets worse.

HEAR US negotiated a payment plan and found donors to help pay off the debt, Tina and her boys got their Section 8 certificate allowing them to stay in their humble trailer. Then, the Las Cruces housing authority diligently does an income review and finds, gasp, that $180 a month is being paid on the prior debt by HEAR US so Tina and the kids wouldn't be homeless. According to HUD regulations, they need to factor in this money--that Tina never touches--into her income, more than doubling her rent.

Tina protests, attends a hearing and is shot down. I write to the old HA and ha-ha. They shoot me down, claiming HUD regulations. So now, after all this time--mid-2010 till now--Tina, saddled with the care of her 6 little boys (try to get a job under her conditions), has no way to increase her income enough to pay the increased rent that HUD says she needs to pay because she's lucky enough to have someone paying her past debt with the old HA so she and her 6 boys won't be homeless in Las Cruces.

How's that for stupid? Now, without being able to pay the money both housing authorities are demanding, this family teeters on the precipice of homelessness in a city that has no emergency shelter for families. So then, for want of about a $2,000 balance on the past debt and $100 a month on the current housing, this family will get churned up in the same system that found it in its heart to bail out rich bankers, hedge fund traders, and the rest of the sleazy bums.

The ex--father of 4 of her children--may get stuck with half the debt in a pending divorce agreement. But HUD will factor that into Tina's rent, raising it further. This gets dumber and dumber as I type. 
HEAR US will again try to collect money to help Tina and the kids, fighting for a change of policies in the meantime. It feels really sleazy sending money to a housing authority that's making life this hard on her, but she has no option--other than the unacceptable one of homelessness. If you want to donate, here's the secure link. It's tax-deductible. We don't take a penny and it all goes directly to pay that stupid debt.
My delirious hope out of all this...that we get to a point where HUD agrees to "do no harm" for Tina, and for scores of other housing-vulnerable decent human beings in this country--that would be the majority of us. Sigh.






2 comments:

felden said...

I think you put it very well by calling it 'stupid'. I do hope you will be able to get Hud to do no harm.
Something similar has happened with PIPP Plus in Lorain County. The old PIPP balance with Columbia gas has to be paid off even if it is from years ago and they didn't know they owed it, before they can get on it!
The reason this doesn't make sense to me is that all the other uncollected balances were forgiven when this new program started. So why not these?

Thank you for what you do.

Diane Nilan said...

I'd be interested in similar situations where an otherwise qualified family is denied housing because of a past due debt to either a PHA or utility. Anyone interested in sharing either on this blog or to me directly at (diane@hearus.us) feel free! It might be one small but essential way to ease some families' situations. Thanks, felden!