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How Do Families Become Homeless?

September 27, 2007

How does it happen? How does a family who is living in a home become a family without a place to live? Believe it or not, Bridge Communities receives approximately 880 phone calls each year from families in such a crisis.

Meet Justyn, now 18 and his brother Jordyn, 16. About ten years ago, their mom, Belinda, quit her job to take care of her parents and several members of her extended family who had become very ill. Within 18 months, she lost both of her parents, a sister, and three aunts. Soon after, she was diagnosed with diabetes and both Justyn and Jordyn were told they had heart disease. Both the boys had to be on heart medicine.

Left with a mountain of medical bills and other unpaid debt, the bank repossessed their car and they were evicted from their apartment. It was right after Christmas, and their mom felt tired and defeated.

“I felt like I failed everyone,” she said, “God, my children, my parents. I lost everything by not making good decisions.”

With two teenage boys, Belinda didn’t qualify to live in shelters because most of them felt they would be a threat to the young girls living there.

Jordyn’s grades began to slip. “It’s harder to make good grades in school because I couldn’t really concentrate on my schoolwork. I was thinking about everything that was going on in my life at the time.”

Justyn realized it was becoming real uncomfortable at school. “It got hard with school because you have friends and they want to come over and visit. It’s kind of hard to tell them “no” and to come up with something like saying…”I’m homeless.”

Justyn and Jordyn’s mom found out about Bridge Communities. Bridge helps families get back on their feet by providing transitional housing, mentoring, tutoring, financial support, and more.

Jordyn talked about how it feels. “Before we were in the Bridge program, life was kinda hard. We were bouncing around…we were living in a hotel or out of a car sometimes.”

Here’s the great news: As recent graduates of the Bridge program, Belinda, Jordyn and Justyn have been moving forward ever since. Today, their mom works full time and they live in a three bedroom home in Villa Park. Jordyn is doing great as a junior in high school. Last month, Justyn, a National Honor Society member, was one of only 68 freshmen to be accepted into the architectural program at the University of Illinois, Circle Campus in Chicago.

We asked Bridge what they found to be the patterns and/or obstacles that appear to be significant factors for people who become homeless; here’s their list of top reasons:

– High rate of domestic abuse
– Make bad relationship choices
– Bad credit, high debt
– Lack of budgeting skills
– Depression is a common theme
– Lower functioning – poor education, undiagnosed learning disabilities
– Lack of specific professional training or expertise
– Decision making is framed through a short term, “survival” type of lens
– Lack of understanding of long term consequences or effects from this kind of decision making. Inability to think/plan long term

Just think how Sleep Out Saturday could help other families like Justyn and Jordyn’s. Thanks for listening.

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