invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION 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....

Friday, October 26, 2012

Technicalities and Torn Carpet--Causes of Family Homelessness

Sitting in the parking lot outside Staples, waiting for a last minute printing job before the start of the much anticipated National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Conference, I think I'm going stark raving mad. Foaming at the mouth....

Simultaneous messages--on FB and text messages, 2 disasters brewing for 2 families I know who will both be homeless unless sanity returns to the bureaucracy known as HUD, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and their local housing authorities.

One situation involves a 2-parent family now crammed with 3 high-maintenance boys in 2 tiny rooms, sharing a home owned and lived in by Granny. Their circumstances are unbelievably hellish on the surface, and beyond description as you look deeper. All 3 boys have medical/behavioral issues that make the idea of living in this small space unfathomable. Parents love each other and the boys. One boy has severe medical issues that require a bunch of trips to hospitals and doctors. Gas prices be damned.

The family is trying to apply for housing assistance--subsidized--to get them out from under Granny's roof. Blam! They hit a brick wall because Dad has a felony, the kind that if I told you the circumstances you'd shake your head. Not drugs, not sex, not murder...just a turn of events that turned bad for him.

Right now, that's the barrier keeping them from a subsidized house or apartment. And absent this solution, they're going to be on the streets. Now they're aiming to get a motel room, the expensive "solution" to homelessness that is still homelessness and keeps them from moving forward.

It's up to the local housing authority to use their heads and evaluate at this situation. But they have more than enough "customers" and little time/motivation to look at extenuating circumstances. The local congressman's staff is trying to help. But this family needs high-powered help, STAT. Parents are looking at the option of divorcing, a totally unacceptable--and absurd--step, but they're thinking of the boys.

My text message signaled crisis #2 simultaneously with the above drama. A mom, with her 7 kids, including a newborn, was told by the public housing authority that she has to move because their humble little house trailer didn't pass inspection. According to the mom, whom I've known for about 3 years, the carpet is stained and got torn when she vacuumed it and threads got caught in the vacuum. Been there, done that with a vacuum cleaner. I was at this house just weeks ago, and nothing seemed uninhabitable to me.
Most people don't know that the larger families have a horrible time finding places to rent--a lot of issues here...too many kids cause too much trouble, HUD regs require certain square footage per person with a formula for how many bedrooms for how many people. 
In most households, we would toss a throw rug over the blight and figure it good. But when the housing authority does their annual inspection, they looked at that and gave a detention. Landlord doesn't want to fix it? Then the family has to move. Easier said than done.

Most people don't know that the larger families have a horrible time finding places to rent--a lot of issues here...too many kids cause too much trouble, HUD regs require certain square footage per person with a formula for how many bedrooms for how many people. Yeah, those are good standards, but does it makes sense for a family to super-stress and possibly become homeless? Is there not middle ground?

So I'm sitting here in a parking lot, sucking down a wifi signal from Staples, hoping that the universe smiles (instead of shits) on these 2 families. And I know countless more families are enduring the same insanity. A good beginning would be having HUD and local housing authorities reduce dysfunction.

The only other suggestion is to stimulate the RV industry and give homeless families motorhomes (and a huge gas allowance) so they can do like I do, sit in parking lots and do their family stuff. But, alas, I remember the formaldehyde-laced campers they tossed at Hurricane Katrina victims. No wonder I'm crazy.

1 comment:

Diane Nilan said...

Heard from someone who knows: "The only HUD limitations are related to sex offenses and meth production. After that it is a local PHA decision. About two years ago, Secretary Donovan sent a letter to PHA's asking them to give considerable thought to limiting the barriers they create to housing. It might be good to remind the local PHA of that encouragement."