by Carol Klocek, CEO, Center for Transforming Lives
In late February, I had an opportunity to speak about family homelessness at a forum designed to address the growing reality in our community and in our country.
On the panel with me was a courageous young mother who told her story of waiting to get into a homeless shelter after her infant son left the NICU. They were first told that they did not ‘look homeless’ and turned away. After living in a tent for a time behind a hotel, she returned and was put on a list. Every Friday she called to see if a spot had opened for her and her newborn. After three long, frightening months of living in a tent, being helped by other homeless strangers, they were admitted. And their lives began to change.
With braces, nervous giggles and tears, and bright blue hair, this young woman told her story. She is proud of how far she has come and knows their future holds more struggle and difficulty, but she describes herself as determined. “I’m going to make it” she said – over and over again throughout the day.
I wonder if I could I be that strong? That fearless? Or was she hiding her true feelings because she is so used to being judged? I don’t know.
What I do know is that there are many more young mothers just like her, and they need our help.
The Center for Transforming Lives led a collaborative effort, resulting in a report, The Hidden Homeless: Early Childhood Homelessness in Tarrant County. Recommendations were developed by this group to effect change to systems so they work better for children and more effectively take their needs into account.
- An estimated 14,981 children experience homelessness each year in Tarrant County, meaning they and their families live in other people’s homes, motels, shelters or sleep in cars.
- All forms of homelessness for children cause trauma, negatively impacting their developing brains, as well as harming physical and emotional health.
- The homeless service system is
not equipped to handle these unseen families.
We’ve created the Coalition for Homeless Children to effect these changes by:
- Championing change in the homeless service system through and alongside Tarrant County Homeless Coalition’s Task Force on Family Homelessness,
- Engaging faith communities by bringing Bridge of Hope programming to Tarrant County,
- Establishing a pilot project serving 30 families, to demonstrate how integrating safe housing, affordable child care, employment and transportation is more effective at eliminating homelessness for families with young children,
- Working with policy partners in local, state and federal level system to better meet the needs of children and families experiencing homelessness.
If you’d like a copy, please visit https://www.transforminglives.org/hidden-homeless.
At the Center for Transforming Lives, this collaborative effort has taken us out of our comfort zone and pushed the boundaries of our transformative work. Sometimes you have to go big so kids can go home.