2/19/2006

 

Up To The Minute...

I'd hoped to have the narrative of how we came to this state caught up by now, but sporadic access to the Web has monkeywrenched those plans. I hope my readers (I guess I do have a few, neh?) will forgive me if I just sum up and throw in a few random thoughts along the way.

Over the past week, we explored what options we had, discarded those that were unworkable, and narrowed our focus down to just getting a place to stay, putting all else, even a focused job search,on hold. We holed up for a week in the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel from last Monday until today. In the meanwhile, we talked to several agencies for help and were referred to the Guilford Interfaith Hospitality Network, an organization that helps the homeless by tapping resources of the faith-based and secular communitites in order to provide temporary shelter, meals and other assistance.We were accepted into the program Thursday, February 16th and moved in today. A brief overview of how it works: we have a Day Center/headquarters we report to every day where we receive social services, counseling, help with job searches and other assistance. Each night, we're taken to a different church in the area that has agreed to host homeless families. Each week, a different church takes up in. The program is designed to last 12 weeks. Hopefully, by then we'll at least have a few more options.

The list of rules is long, and the program actively screens its participants, putting it a notch above most other programs, I guess. Still, we're not trying to stay here 3 whole months. I plan to be acting a lot faster than that.

We've discovered that being homeless isn't just a state of mind, nor is it something that is easily overcome. To be sure, we will get out of this mess, but it may not be done as quickly or as easily as we thought.

One reason is a huge hindrance is that the organizations dedicated to the homelessness problem tend only to give the people seeking their help only half the information they need to make informed decisions or pursue their options. For example, when this whle thing started, we went to the Greensboro Housing Authority to try and apply for public housing, but were told that the waiting list was up to a year long. Knowing we didn't have that kind of time frame, we demurred. During our initial intake interview with GIHN, however, we found out that with proper documentation that we were homeless (easily obtained from an agency working with the homeless, the application for public housing would move to near the top of the list! Had we known this in the first place, we would've applied a lot earlier. We'll certainly be doing it this week. Who knows, maybe we'll be in somewhere more permanent by Spring?

We've spoken with the Greensboro Housing Coalition several times now. My initial call several weeks ago was rebuffed outright, although maybe I just wasn't asking the right kinds of questions. I was left with the sense that they really don't do anything other than take in donations. The wife went there the following week and was asked to fill out a rather long intake form that she had to call me at work to help with. When she met me at the hotel we were staying at that night, I asked how things went. She showed me a thick stack of computer printouts the worker at the Housing Coalition made from a website called Socialserve. I could've done as much myself, and in fact had doen so just the day before. The wife had no clue why the Housing Coalition made her fill out a huge form just to hand us a stack of printouts easily obtained by anyone with enough savvy to be able to boot a computer.

As it turned out, while we were in Durham, I ended up weeding out four-fifths of the listings. I automatically reject any housing list that requires a credit check, because admit it, mine is lousy. And four-fifths of those listings we were given required a credit check.

We've been to the Department of Social Services, and will no doubt be going there again, becuase we don;t think we've scratched the surface as far as federal help goes.* There are typically many programs that clients aren't told about when they make their initial inquiries. See, there's that "only gven one-half the information" thing again.

I guess the takeaway message here is that anytime you deal with an organization, be sure to ask probing questions. And don' be afraid to ask, becuase you can be sure that the person behind the desk will be playing things close to the vest and won't give out all the info you need.

Comments:
Hello,

I am one of your (not so few) readers. I'm French, i'm blogger and I am pride to talk about you. I really think that what you're doing is courageous and I thank you for taking time to blog (in you're words) about it. I hope that you and you're family will go through.

Best all

Michael
 
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