The Day I Became Homeless
By Jane Doe
I cannot easily describe the array of emotions that I went through on the day I became homeless. I guess the best way to start is to tell what happened to my children and me.
I was a single mother with two children, and was unable to work because I had no childcare or transportation. We were living with my older sister, and I had been paying her most of the $198.00 a month that I received in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
One day she came and told me that she couldn’t pay the rent and that we had received an eviction notice. We all had to be out by midnight. She and her boyfriend were moving in with his family, but my children and I would have to find somewhere else to go.
I was in a state of panic. Midnight, I had until midnight and it was 1:30 in the afternoon! I started calling family members, and with each phone call my heart broke a little more. No one had room or could help us.
I felt like a failure. How could I let my kids down like this?
I felt hurt. Why wouldn’t anyone help us?
I felt scared. Would we end up on the streets?
I felt guilty. Maybe I could have tried harder…
I felt and thought all of these things but none of these thoughts could help me. My mom suggested I call a homeless shelter and I did. I called Ozanam Family Shelter and they said they had a room for me. That night I felt so alone. I was surrounded by strangers. My family loves me but they couldn’t help me. These strangers could, and they did.
The people at Ozanam told me about the Goodwill Family Center. It’s a program that provides transitional housing for the homeless, and it’s where I live now. We are happy here. I have a job. I have a G.E.D. and I am close to getting my driver’s license.
I went through a lot to get where I am, but it was worth it. I want people to know that if they find themselves in this situation not to be ashamed. Take the opportunities that come your way to make your life better. Don’t ever give up! Remember, it really could happen to anyone.
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Jane Doe was lucky. Ozanam had a room that night and she was slowly able to put her life back together. Not everyone is so lucky. Many people like Jane don’t get back on their feet quickly, or at all. Parents and children suffer long-term emotional and economic consequences from being homeless. Whether we recognize the impact or not, our community pays a price too.
In September 1987, the City of Evansville prepared and submitted a Comprehensive Homeless Assistance Plan pursuant to the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. That report stated that there was "almost unanimous agreement" among the agencies working with the homeless that the needs of the "about to be homeless" or "near homeless" were "far greater than the needs of the homeless." The problem, the report contends, was not a lack of housing, but "the lack of the economic resources to maintain housing." (City of Evansville 1987, p. 1)
That same report concluded that there existed a need for transitional and permanent housing for individuals with specialized problems including chronic mental illness, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, and substance abuse. (p. 2)
More than fifteen years later, the Task Force to End Homelessness in Evansville has identified many of the same factors that lead to homelessness and many of the same needs for housing, some of which are clearly illustrated in Jane Doe’s story.
Evansville is widely recognized as a caring community, committed to helping all its citizens. We now have 18 specialized programs working to serve Evansville’s currently homeless. But this report has been developed with another goal in mind. While we affirm the pressing need to provide emergency shelter, food, and medical care to individuals who are homeless, we were charged with the challenge of developing a strategy to end homelessness in our community.
With that vision in mind, working groups were established to identify barriers to permanent housing, the economic climate that leads to precarious housing, and planning models that prevent homelessness among certain populations.
We sought to identify community attitudes - and our own - regarding the homeless. Most of all, we continually challenged ourselves to not accept a future in which a given number of homeless in Evansville was to be accepted. We have dared to dream of Evansville in 2014 as a community with an economic and social infrastructure that empowers all its residents to make and keep their homes here.
We believe it can be done. As we continue to work together to shelter and care for individuals and families who face homelessness, we are committed to the development and implementation of models that have proven to bridge them into permanent housing and equip them with the skills and understanding they need to reach their destination of home.