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Stories Behind Homelessness

Stories Behind Homelessness, from Family Promise of Gainesville.

A grandmother came to us with custody of six grandchildren, all under the age of six, including 5-month-old twins. One daughter had recently died in an automobile accident, leaving four children behind. Another daughter lost custody of her two children because of abuse. Although the grandmother had moved from Gainesville to South Carolina, where she had family who could assist her in taking care of the children, DCF staff required her to return to Gainesville. In the midst of serious grief over her daughter's death, and trying to care for six little ones, she was forced to move back before she could secure a job or housing, and therefore found herself homeless. After she entered shelter, IHN staff persuaded officials to bypass a waiting list to provide subsidized housing quickly for this family. In just over two months, they were able to move into a five-bedroom home.

A couple with children ages 9 and 4, entered shelter prior to Christmas. The mother was seven months pregnant, and the father had just lost his job, when he was jailed for unpaid traffic tickets (which the family did not have the income to pay). IHN helped the father find a job and made sure the mom was given adequate prenatal care. The baby was born prematurely, by emergency C-Section, because of a fluid retention disorder, and she resided in Shands NICU for an extended period of time. IHN staff called in favors to obtain housing for the family so that the newborn could move from NICU to an apartment.

A family consisting of a husband and wife, their eighteen year old daughter, their fifteen year old daughter, and the eighteen year old daughter's 8-month-old baby came to IHN because their house was condemned. They were not given enough time to locate new housing before they were forced to leave their home. The father and the oldest daughter had full-time jobs, but the mother was disabled. All their income was being spent to pay for a room in an extended stay motel. The family had no car, and the mother was often forced to ride a bus to attend appointments at Shands AGH several times a week. Congregation members donated a car to the family. After residing in shelter for two months, the family found an affordable rent-to-own mobile home. IHN paid the deposit on the home, and the family is back on its feet

NB: The fifteen year old daughter had severe social anxiety disorder, and had not attended public school in several years. Her fear of contact with people was so serious, that when living in their own home, she would sneak into the kitchen to prepare her meal, then take it to her room and eat it alone, with the door closed. She would not answer the door one day when home alone, though firemen were knocking frantically, in response to a call that the house was on fire. (She had let a pot burn down on the burner.) Just before the family moved into their own home, the mother tearfully told IHN staff that IHN's help for her daughter was more important than our help with housing and transportation. She recounted how grateful she was to observe her daughter interacting with IHN volunteers and sharing a sofa in the common room to watch television with other IHN guests.

A mother and her seven year old son recently entered shelter. The family lost their housing earlier this year when the mother became too distraught to work after her daughter was kidnapped by a father who had not had any contact with her throughout the early years of her life. When the family was referred to IHN for shelter, the mother had sent her son to live with friends, and she was sleeping on park benches. After only two weeks in shelter, this mother has obtained new employment, and we are looking for housing for her.

A mother with sons aged fourteen and eighteen entered shelter after losing their housing when the mother was hospitalized for an extended period of time with serious heart problems. The mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and was told she needed a heart transplant. This mother obviously could not work and was dependent upon social security disability payments for income. She was hospitalized twice for a week each time during the family's stay in shelter. Each time the mother was hospitalized, IHN volunteers kept the boys in shelter and provided for their needs. This included much love and reassurance for the fourteen year, who was desperately afraid his mother was going to die. When it became obvious that the family would not be able to move into subsidized housing for many months, because of the extensive waiting lists, IHN developed a relationship with the owner of a property management company, who allowed the family to move into one of his apartments - paying only 30% of their income, a subsidized rate - while awaiting their slot on a waiting list to open up. The family lived in this "transitional housing" for approximately five months before moving into their own home.

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