Homelessness among families with children is on the rise. But if you read a recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you might come away with a totally different picture. According to HUD, a family is considered to be homeless only if they are actually living on the street, in a car, or in a shelter.
The reality is that most families who become homeless move in with family or friends, often creating cramped, unsafe living situations. Sometimes, they are taken advantage of, witness violence, or are themselves abused. Since their names are not typically added to the lease, they have no tenant rights and can be asked to leave at any time. Many families wind up at Family Promise after a failed attempt to live with others.
Despite this, HUD does not consider these families as homeless, thus explaining the suggested decrease reported in its data.
On the other hand, the Department of Education does include families who are doubled and tripled up, and its numbers report a significant increase in the number of homeless students. In Bergen County, for example, there was a 24% increase in the number of homeless students during the 2017–2018 school year compared to the previous year.
HUD funding is determined by the number of families with children who are counted as homeless. The use of this narrow definition, which fails to include all those without a permanent place to call home, means that many families who truly need assistance are deemed ineligible. As the amount of funding going toward housing assistance decreases, the need for the work of Family Promise becomes more urgent.
Family Promise helps families address the complex issues of homelessness and supports them in their journey toward true self-sufficiency. Their success is not determined by the whims of government aid. This year, let’s recommit to making certain all families who do not have a permanent place to live get the assistance they need.
Wishing you and yours a happy New Year!