April 12, 2019

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Catholic Charities plays role in homeless family’s story of hope

David Bethuram

(Editor’s note: The name used in this column has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.)

“Laura” had a hard time keeping up with bills while trying to juggle a job and taking care of her kids while her husband was incarcerated. She ended up losing her job because her car broke down, and she did not have the money to get it fixed. Then she and the children were evicted from their home. There were no family members for her to turn to that could help her and her children.

She talked to a friend and got their permission to allow them to sleep on their floor for a while. It was a tight fit and an uncomfortable living arrangement. The children were frightened and sad most of the time. Eventually, they had to leave because her friends were being threatened with an eviction due to Laura and her children staying there.

Unfortunately, Laura’s story is far too common. As of January 2018, Indiana had an estimated 5,258 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that total, 481 were family households, 539 were veterans, 268 were unaccompanied young adults (ages 18-24), and 449 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.

Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2016-17 school year shows that an estimated 17,863 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year.

It can be argued that there are many more individuals and families that experience homelessness—depending on when the count is made and the time of year—but no one can argue that there are an incredible number of our neighbors of every age and background who are homeless.

Catholic Charities sees a variety of reasons why people like Laura and her children become homeless. Lack of housing that low-income people can afford is one of the primary causes. Without housing options, people face eviction, instability and homelessness. Low-income households often do not earn enough to pay for food, clothing, transportation and a place they can call home. Health problems can cause a person’s homelessness as well as be exacerbated by the experience. Many survivors of domestic violence become homeless when leaving an abusive relationship.

Laura came to Catholic Charities for help. She and her children stayed in one of our shelters. While they were there, she was provided help with applying for assistance with affordable child care. She was still able to go to work at a local convenient store while working with an employment specialist to search for a job with a higher wage. Then we helped her with her resume, so she could pursue other employment opportunities that could lead to a career, not just a job. In addition, her children were able to continue to attend their school.

Last week, Laura came back to see us after she moved into her new home. She shopped at our food pantry and selected healthy food and fresh produce to take to her family. Laura starts a new job close to her kids’ school and day care next week.

She told us that she and her children are a lot happier and more relaxed knowing they have a place and will continue to have a place to call home in a very welcoming neighborhood. They are settling in with routines and loving their new community. They are more hopeful than they have been in a very long time.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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