If you’re homeless or facing homelessness, you’re probably in one of the hardest periods of your life. Losing your home is a devastating experience; living without a home is dangerous and demoralizing. A life event of this magnitude can easily trigger a downward spiral that’s difficult to break, even if you still have a source of income.
So where do you go from here? Homelessness is difficult, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t have to break you. Millions of Americans have broken out of homelessness and gone on to stability, security, and happiness. You can do the same. There is help out there if you know where to look for it. These programs exist to help people in need, but many of the people who need them most never use them, either because they aren’t aware of them or because they are reluctant to ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it, especially when you have a family, and we urge anyone who is homeless or facing homelessness to use these resources to the fullest.
Let’s look at some of the most useful resources for people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Many of these programs are administered on the local level. That’s a good thing because it allows communities to design services for their needs. It can also make things a little harder if you’re looking for help because no single central place connects all the available services. Be sure to look at the private organizations listed at the end of this article, as they can help you use the often more complicated government services!
Links to all organizations mentioned are at the end of this article.
The US government has many programs designed to help the homeless and prevent homelessness, but individuals will almost never approach a Federal agency directly. Most Federal programs involve funding for state and local agencies or private groups that administer programs. To take advantage of these programs, you’ll need to locate those groups. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do. Start with the Dept. of Housing & Urban Development’s Homelessness Assistance page. Select your state, and you’ll get county to county breakdowns of active programs and the organizations that administer them.
Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) administers programs serving homeless people with mental illness, including substance abuse disorders. If you have suffered from mental illness or if substance abuse is part of the reason for your homelessness, PATH should be the first stop in your quest for help. Again, the PATH program funds many state and local agencies that deliver services. Search for your local outlet at PATH’s locator site; the link is at the end of this article.
Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) is another program that supports the expansion and development of community efforts to provide permanent housing and integrate treatment services. CABHI grants for individuals who are dealing with substance, mental, or co-occurring disorders are awarded competitively for up to 3 years. Again, the program is administered at the community level, and the services available in your community may vary. Inquire with your local PATH provider for more information.
Programs for Youth
Basic Center Program (BCP) – This program provides assistance to create or strengthen existing community-based programs aimed at meeting the immediate needs of homeless and runaway youth under the age of 18. BCP also attempts either to reunite young people with their families or to find appropriate alternative placements.
Transitional Living Program (TLP) – This program supports projects that provide long-term residential services to older homeless youth. The age requirement to enter this program is between 16 and 22, with services provided for up to 21 months. Individuals still under the age of 18 when the 21-month period ends may be able to stay in the program until their 18th birthday. TLP also funds Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth.
Street Outreach Program – A countrywide program, Street Outreach enables organizations to help young people get off the streets. In addition to providing services aimed at putting young people into stable housing and preparing them for independence, the program’s paramount goal is to prevent the sexual exploitation or abuse of youths living in unstable housing or on the streets.
If you’d like to locate BCP, TLP, or Street Outreach program, check out the map on the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) website. If you’re looking for Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth, the FYSB also provides help.
Many private organizations and foundations are providing vital assistance to homeless Americans. Some of these groups are local while others provide national services. These groups are often excellent places to ask about available government programs in your area and be directed to the appropriate offices. Some of them may be able to help you through the process of applying for various programs and benefits.
Volunteers Of America provides a nationwide range of services ranging from eviction prevention through emergency services, transitional housing to permanent affordable housing. Their web page has a zip code-based search function that will help you locate services in your area.
The National Coalition to End Homelessness has a search function that links people threatened with homelessness to appropriate services in their area. If you are facing imminent homelessness, this should be one of your first stops.
Shelter Listings provides state-by-state listings of supportive shelters that can help you with immediate services. The shelters are also often able to supply information on other assistance programs applicable in your area.
The information above may not change your circumstances overnight, but it will offer you some powerful tools available to get you going in the right direction. You’re not alone in the wilderness. You’re entitled to support from your government, and genuine help is right around the corner. You can take the right steps to find help and improve your situation today.
Dept. of Housing & Urban Development Homelessness Assistance page
Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH)
Family and Youth Services Bureau
HUD Resource Locator
HUD Homelessness Assistance Page
Volunteers Of America
National Coalition to End Homelessness