Homelessness: An Invisible Social Problem
We can’t simply look at a family to know if they are homelessness. They may not be living on the street. They may be living with another family or a relative, living in a single motel room or in their car. Little in their appearance says they are struggling to find a decent place to live and provide for their family. Yet, they have lost their home – for any number of reasons – and are struggling to get back on their feet.
Unfortunately, there are many stories to share. Through these examples, it is clear that homelessness often is not a choice. Homelessness can be driven by events outside a family’s control. All of these examples occurred between 2018 and 2020 in the Southport-Oak Island area.
A mother and three children (ages 6 to 14) were brought to the winter shelter in January 2020 due to serious domestic abuse. Hope Harbor was not an option due to age of the oldest male child. It took several weeks to locate housing options. (McKenny Vento, 2019)
A family with a child in Brunswick County Schools, and both parents work full time (construction; service industry) and own their home. Due to an electrical fire, their home was a total loss and they had no place to live. They contacted local agencies and investigated many options for rental housing but were not able to find anything they could afford in Brunswick County. Their only option was to move into a motel where they had to use their income on motel fees rather than on rebuilding their home. The pandemic further complicated their situation as the construction job was discontinued during the shutdown. Medical problems created further financial strain. This is a family who would be a good candidate for transitional housing which would have allowed them to save toward rebuilding their home while continuing to work in the community.
A single mother and grandmother with small children who were living in a house built by Habitat. The home burned and the family was unable to find affordable housing. After working with multiple agencies in the county, the family was housed in a motel. The motel stay was extended and took most of the proceeds from their homeowner’s insurance.
Mold in Rental
A young couple with a five-year-old son and pregnant wife were renting a double wide mobile home. The home was found to contain black mold and the owner was unable to fix the problem. The family was forced to move and had to stay in a motel with help from local agencies until they could locate permanent housing.
A young father was laid off of work and was not able to keep up with rent. The family was evicted. He and his wife and six-month-old child were living in their car and were ultimately housed in a shelter in South Carolina.
No Affordable Housing
A woman worked as a live-in care provider for a client for several years. When the client died, she was not able to afford both housing and car payments so lived in her car while working days a care giver. She came to Winter Shelter and was subsequently able to move into subsidized housing where her rent is based on her income. It took several months, and she has to return to living in her car after the motel room was no longer available.