A Light In The Window: Homeless Prevention

I was laying on my couch last night reading a book when my mind started to wander thinking about the crappy day that I had along with not having any money and bills continuing to pile up. I have worked very hard to get where I am today and I am proud of that. I’ve had to reach out more than a few times for financial help but have eventually made it through and looked back at the hardships as a learning experience.

From someone who helped start the peer movement in Michigan, I thought I was a know-it-all resource queen but I had to call Becky Gomez, Northern Lakes CMH Homeless Prevention Coordinator, more recently myself for not having adequate housing for myself and, more importantly, my children.

Becky is a wonderful resource and I am grateful that she came to all four of our office sites for the Learning Community meetings this month to talk about Homeless Prevention.

She used the letters in the word, “Homeless,” to guide her presentation:

Housing – why is homeless prevention so important – so that no one is left out on the streets and so that everyone has a place to call home; What barriers do people find in regards to homelessness – can’t get a job without an address, no place to call home, loss of connections; Can homelessness really be prevented – yes it can but only if you ask for help; What is affordable housing – it’s different in every county, however, the normal means is about $395 a month which is almost always non-existent.

Opportunities – Becky talked about the resources for eviction prevention in the area you live in, resources for shut off prevention, again in the area you live in, and the Housing waiting list: the lists might be long (2-4 years even) but if you are not on the lists, the wait is even longer.

Money – Budgeting in regards to housing, If money is tight, make sure to pay the RENT first before anything else because it’s easier to get assistance with utilities than it is for rent with a larger sum of money being needed; where to go to find work; and what to do if someone cannot work and has no income.

Empty Feelings – Just surviving the day sometimes if that’s all that can be done; Feeling disconnected from the world – not having an address for information to go to and not having a phone (safelink phone available but still need an address to enroll for this phone https://www.safelinkwireless.com/EnrollmentPublic/home.aspx) to be able to have outside connections/relationships, etc.; How to fight those empty feelings: Getting involved in a group, Volunteering, Staying Connected.

Leases – Do I want a lease and what is the difference between a lease and a rental agreement – there is no difference between a lease and a rental agreement. Both make sure that for that timeframe the contracts are signed you have a set rate on your housing. Wanting a lease is up to you. It depends on what the lease says and what you are willing to do and/or not do i.e.: having pets and/or smoking; What if I need to break a lease – always be sure to talk to your landlord and be honest with them. It is possible to break a lease. Most leases are for 6 months to a year. You should stay through the whole lease, but there are exceptions.

Eviction Prevention – Can an eviction really be prevented? What do I do if I get an eviction notice? – Do NOT wait for help!!! There is prevention out there. Don’t be too embarrassed to ask for help before it’s too late.

Support – You need support to stay living independently. Write down some resources that can help you (like DHS and NLCMH) and keep them on hand. That’s why we are here – to help people from becoming homeless.

Solution – Can we end homelessness in our county – sure we can but it takes a whole bunch of people to plug in together to connect resources; Be a part of the solution helps end homelessness. Statistics of homeless in our areas are all different; How will you plug in to help? It’s good to pay back but it’s even better to pay it forward. We never know when we are going to stand in that same spot.

Becky’s presentation ended with “Once we solve the issues of homelessness then everyone will have a “light in the window.”

After her presentation, I again started to re-evaluate my life’s blessings. Things could be way worse and I could be living in a box, cold and hungry, with my kids. I’m grateful Becky came to present this information. Now everyone who attended (or reads this blog) can know that there IS help available. We can do it together to make sure everyone has a home. Great job, Becky! Way to pay it forward!