What to Do If You Become Homeless With Children? Advice for Homeless Families
Families—the New Face of Homelessness
With the economy falling apart, prices of everything sky rocketing, and a society that fails to fully take care of its citizens, it's no wonder that families are quickly becoming the majority in homelessness. Minimum wage is often close to the starting pay even at skilled positions. Many companies pay manufacturing associates less than $9 per hour even with years of experience. So when life goes the wrong way, it is easy to very rapidly lose everything.
We faced this reality not too long ago, and now we have managed to pull through. I never thought I would be the one to find my not-so-long-ago, middle class family on the street wondering where we could go. Here are my tips to surviving homelessness with a family.
Where to Sleep When Homeless With Children?
Remember, no housing is like your own. There will be negatives to all aspects of living options as long as we are not in a comfortable place to call our own. The key is finding the option that is the easiest to handle for both yourself and your child or children.
- Family - The obvious best option is to check with family. See if there is any way that you could live there in exchange for cleaning, doing the yard work, or cooking. This would give your child a place to be somewhere hopefully familiar during the process. Not everyone has the family option. Some just don't want their family to know the extent of their problems. If that is the case, you will need to look at other options.
- Friends - Sometimes this can be the best option, and as I learned sometimes it can be a total nightmare. It can be really bad if the other person parents their children differently than you do or if the friend has no children. It can lead to all sorts of issues from not being able to put your kids to sleep at a reasonable time to trying to explain to a child why it's freezing in a house and they have to wear a jacket when it's warm outside. That being said, it is a roof. Right now that is the priority.
- Hotel - Many (slightly lower quality) hotels offer a weekly rate. There are even some hotels that offer complete kitchens. Value Place hotels is a good option over in my location as long as you don't have a pet. These hotels run anywhere from $175 to $350 a week. This option could easily take up most of your check, but it provides a decent roof, water, electricity, and no living with other people. Some of these even feed you a good breakfast. (Don't forget to grab an extra bagel or yogurt to cut costs for lunch) Also,if there is a rest stop near you, be sure to stop at it to look at the hotel coupons. I find they are better than any hotel reservation price on online sites.
- Shelters - I'm listing this last because in my opinion it is the WORST possible option when you are a homeless family. We tried it and all of the ones in my area split the family up. Boys over 10 had to be split from their mother at night to go to the "mens" section. Husband and wife had to sleep in different buildings. Showers were five minutes. Have any of these people ever tried explaining to a 3 year old why they can't be in the bath a couple extra minutes? Also the one we went to openly told us that we may be housed with sex offenders and violent criminals. There were NO family shelters in a 100 mile radius of our fairly large city. It was truly sad and made us feel worse than we already did. Grateful they have a system in place but it should definitely be a last resort.
Homeless people, even with no permanent address, can get food stamps if you meet income requirements. This is true in all states. Apply!
How to Get Food When Homeless
- EBT/Food Stamps - I want to make sure this is very clear because there is a lot of misinformation about this out there. Everything helps and this is what the system is for.
- Food Banks - This is a great option but often conflicts with a work schedule if you are a working family. Some have weekend giveaway times. Make sure you tell them if you have no access to a can opener, stove, or refrigerator. Most can pack a bag made just for homeless.
- Dumpster Diving - Do you have any idea how much food that is still good and very edible goes into dumpsters every year. I'm talking about still sealed in packaging non perishable foods! Tons of it. Let go of your ego and you can often fill a car with food in a couple hours of dumpster diving.
- Couponing- Check sites live moneysavingmom.com for coupon deals at most major grocery outlets. Often you can get free food from couponing, or at least save a good bit of money on the bill.
If you were homeless where would you stay?
Basic Tips For Homeless Parents
If you choose to stay in a hotel consider a few options.
- Is this a place that is safe for your children? My husband and I checked into one where we BOTH got hit on by prostitutes. So, consider the crime at the hotel before staying.
- Check for bed bugs. We heard horror stories about some of the lower class hotels having bed bugs.
- Consider the breakfast. For us 3 children needed breakfast plus us. So the average cost of breakfast being a minimum of $5 for all of us on a dollar menu. Add that up over the week and that's $25 extra per week (and not even really full belly's) It's better to just pay the extra $25-$30 a week to stay at a place that offers full breakfast. You sometimes can take enough back to your room to be able to eat later. We didn't buy milk at all when we were staying in the hotel and lunch was usually breakfast we had brought back.
Always remember safety first and don't forget to do fun things with the kids during these stressful times. Take them to the park in down time. If you still have their bike let them ride it in the hotel parking lot. Remember being homeless may not change your child as long as you remember to not let the stress take away from your relationship.
If you have assess to a phone call 211. Yes just those 3 numbers. This will connect you to your local United Way number. You can speak with someone to find out where the nearest assistance places are.
They can direct you to food banks, shelters, your local SNAP (food stamps) office, WIC, and many other programs. Don't be afraid or nervous to call. The whole point of this number is to connect people with a true need to the correct place.