When I think about my housing struggles, the main thing that comes to mind is rushing around at the end of the school semester, trying to find an apartment for the following year. This usually involved a process of elimination; which rental properties have openings and what can I afford? I also had to consider the distance from campus (I did not have a car) and what places had enough room for me and my roommates. I always had choices, even when I was pressed for time, as there were many student housing options near campus. I became quite good at this and was often the go-to gal for last minute housing.
Fast forward to today; I help those who are homeless apply to the Housing Programs here at CHN. I work with adults and families who are homeless, according to qualifications set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The people must be in a shelter, on the streets or living in a place not meant for human habitation. These are people who may have recently become homeless or who may have been homeless for years on end. The latter is what we call chronically homeless and is defined as someone who had experienced four episodes of homelessness in the past three years or who have been consistently homeless for an entire year.
Housing barriers include, but are not limited to, low-income, lack of family or friends, substance abuse, criminal records, mental illness, foreclosure and past evictions.
When applicants come to me they immediately ask when they can start their housing search. The excitement of finally having housing options overshadows the reality that the struggle is likely not over.
Participants must be able to locate an apartment or home that will accept our program and also pass inspection based on housing quality standards. Sometimes participants must choose housing based on the requirements of our program and not what is ideal for their family. Children sometimes have to switch schools, commutes to work become longer or more complicated and everyone must adjust. While this can be frustrating, the end result is safe, affordable housing that allows participants to focus on other goals.
Sarah Terrien is CHN’s former Intake Specialist.