If you’re homeless or facing homelessness, you’re probably in one of the hardest periods of your life. Losing your home is a devastating experience; living without a home is dangerous and demoralizing. A life event of this magnitude can easily trigger a downward spiral that’s difficult to break, even if you still have a source of income.
So where do you go from here? Homelessness is difficult, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t have to break you. Millions of Americans have broken out of homelessness and gone on to stability, security, and happiness. You can do the same. There is help out there if you know where to look for it. These programs exist to help people in need, but many of the people who need them most never use them, either because they aren’t aware of them or because they are reluctant to ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it, especially when you have a family, and we urge anyone who is homeless or facing homelessness to use these resources to the fullest.
Let’s look at some of the most useful resources for people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Many of these programs are administered on the local level. That’s a good thing because it allows communities to design services for their needs. It can also make things a little harder if you’re looking for help because no single central place connects all the available services. Be sure to look at the private organizations listed at the end of this article, as they can help you use the often more complicated government services!
Links to all organizations mentioned are at the end of this article.
The US government has many programs designed to help the homeless and prevent homelessness, but individuals will almost never approach a Federal agency directly. Most Federal programs involve funding for state and local agencies or private groups that administer programs. To take advantage of these programs, you’ll need to locate those groups. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do. Start with the Dept. of Housing & Urban Development’s Homelessness Assistance page. Select your state, and you’ll get county to county breakdowns of active programs and the organizations that administer them.
Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) administers programs serving homeless people with mental illness, including substance abuse disorders. If you have suffered from mental illness or if substance abuse is part of the reason for your homelessness, PATH should be the first stop in your quest for help. Again, the PATH program funds many state and local agencies that deliver services. Search for your local outlet at PATH’s locator site; the link is at the end of this article.
Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals (CABHI) is another program that supports the expansion and development of community efforts to provide permanent housing and integrate treatment services. CABHI grants for individuals who are dealing with substance, mental, or co-occurring disorders are awarded competitively for up to 3 years. Again, the program is administered at the community level, and the services available in your community may vary. Inquire with your local PATH provider for more information.