The Family Resource Center (FRC) at The Home was running an evening social justice youth leadership program when a 40-something father and his one-year-old daughter entered our facility. Earlier that day, the father had filed an Emergency Housing Assistance (EA) application, but come nightfall, they had nowhere to go. His former apartment was unsafe for his baby girl. It was riddled with mold and lead, and had illegal electrical wiring. The landlord refused to fix the issues, so Dad and daughter slept in hotels until his savings ran out. This individual has always been a provider. He has worked his whole life, paid rent and saved money. Suddenly, he has nothing, except a daughter he adores. He can no longer work as a laborer because his hands cramp so badly they require surgery. He doesn’t have disability, and, though he has full custody of his baby girl, he hasn’t received any compensation for her care. Despite it all, he is determined to persevere.
FINDING SHELTER IN AN IMPERFECT SYSTEM
The FRC, which connects families to resources within their own communities, immediately placed a call to put the father in touch with an agency contracted to prevent family homelessness. This outside agency was able to secure placement in a temporary shelter while the EA application was reviewed, and provide the small family with a roof over their heads. Sadly, this short-term solution brought little relief. Father and daughter lived at the shelter for three weeks, during which time their belongings were stolen and their car was vandalized.
When Dad tried to hold the shelter accountable, no one took responsibility, and he was forced out. The next shelter was no better, and he continued to fear for his daughter’s welfare.
SEEKING A SAFER SOLUTION
“Family shelters are few and far between and very few have capacity for single fathers,” explains Program Director Kathryn Ratey. “There aren’t supports for single dads.” There is, however, The FRC, which is part of a network of programs throughout Massachusetts that advocate for families and assist them in navigating city and state systems. In addition to providing concrete resources, like clothing, books, diapers and hygiene items, FRC staff, together with Dad, began a six-month process of securing a safer, long-term shelter for the family of two. The ordeal was frustrating—the father’s application was denied and appealed three times. Each time, he’d come to FRC, his daughter in tow, to take the necessary action steps, meeting with staff to identify the reasons for rejection, scan the required documents and resubmit the applications in full. They attended hearings and worked hours at a time, while his daughter played, colored and enchanted everyone around her.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Dad’s persistence paid off. He was finally eligible for longer-term shelter, and he and his daughter were given a new unit to live in. It isn’t ideal, but it is safer, and allows access to key supports as they rebuild. Today, Dad is exploring classes to gain skills and switch careers; FRC is helping him vet potential job opportunities and apply for low-income housing for the future. His bundle of joy remains at the heart of every effort. “A lot of people, given the hurdles and many compounding factors, would have stopped trying,” says Kathryn. “This is the personification of resilience and what a parent will do. That has nothing to do with FRC. That’s all him.”
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