Homelessness is a serious and misunderstood problem in America, and many homeless families in the country are comprised of a single mother and one to three children.
Single parent families can often be among the poorest and most vulnerable, due to the lack of additional income sources. However, there are some organizations whose main goal is to help these families pay for rent, one of Americans’ highest and most necessary monthly expenses.
Across the country, many non-profit organizations and charities have taken steps to provide aid to single parent families in a variety of different ways. While some of the most pressing needs for many extremely low-income families are food and clothing, these organizations also provide mediation with landlords and specific grants that can give single parents actual money to be used for paying rent and utilities. Sometimes, these organizations even work together to provide relief.
While there is sure to be at least some kind of available aid for a single parent who is struggling to pay their rent, it is important to realize that some grants and services are limited. Because of this, it can sometimes be competitive when looking at receiving multiple sources of aid. Features that can impact eligibility for certain forms of aid include family composition, income level, current living conditions and other extenuating circumstances.
A large portion of the aid that goes towards helping single parents each year comes from charitable organizations and businesses that operate within communities. Perhaps one of the biggest and most influential of these charitable organizations is the Salvation Army. Among other services like helping to fight hunger and assist veterans, they spend millions of charity-raised dollars each year on helping to get people off the streets, and able to pay for their housing. They provide emergency funds to single parents and other families who cannot afford to pay for their utilities, in order to prevent utility shutoffs. They have set up temporary shelters for the homeless, and transitional living centers for families that need a place to live in between apartments. They even have job training and counseling programs, which can be incredibly useful in lifting single parents out of debt and into a better career for their family.
Other “preventative” community organizations that help single parents cover their rent are places like Goodwill and the Community Economic Development (CED) organization. Goodwill and other similar non-profits are especially known for providing goods like clothing, furniture and more to America’s most needy. However, they also provide lesser-known services such as childcare, tutoring programs and a network of other community service providers that can give financial aid to needy families. The CED is one of these service providers, as they are a state-sponsored community organization that focuses on emergency housing, financial aid for utilities, food/clothing aid and even crisis intervention for child/spousal abuse. Please remember that most of their services are for single parent and two-parent families. They usually do not provide resources to individuals.
As opposed to trying to combat poverty and homelessness before they become serious problems for single parents, some community organizations are much more reactionary and help families currently experiencing homelessness. Whereas organizations like Volunteers of America can provide information and resources for families looking for low-income housing, other groups like HELP and the Coalition for the Homeless are mostly focused on providing rent assistance and emergency shelters to families who are already homeless. If you are interested in any of these organizations, more information can be found at their websites or by contacting your local U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) field office.
HUD also provides a number of services that are funded on the federal government and state government levels. Most of these services are focused on providing affordable housing to those low-income families who qualify, but there are also some that cater specifically to single parents. The first (and perhaps most widely used) of these services is the HUD Subsidized Housing Assistance program. This provides landlords and property owners with government funds in order to give their low-income tenants a reduced monthly rent. The qualifications to apply for this program change every year, and also vary depending on the U.S. state that you live in. However, it is the most common of these programs that provide assistance to families with annual incomes under a certain percentage of the federal poverty line.
Next, many low-income single parents that are looking for rent assistance can look at the HUD’s Public Housing options. Instead of simply looking at subsidized apartments, this program has created specific public housing project communities, full of low-income single-family homes, townhouses and high rise apartments. Instead of a landlord, these government-funded homes are managed by your city or area’s Housing Agency – they take care of typical landlord duties, such as collecting rent and providing maintenance to the grounds. Because these communities are full of low-income families, there are often specialized programs within the communities for childcare, family counseling and even financial counseling. Similar to the Subsidized Housing Assistance program, your family’s eligibility is largely based on household income.
The final HUD service that helps low-income families and single parents is the Section 8 Voucher program. This is similar in many ways to the other two housing programs, except that Section 8 vouchers can allow for a wider variety of rental homes and apartments. By giving low-income residents the choice of where they want to live, it gives them much more freedom and flexibility when it comes to paying their monthly rent. If a home or apartment is deemed Section 8 eligible, a low-income family who presents their voucher to the landlord can then redeem the voucher to HUD for repayment. However, the eligibility restrictions for Section 8 are the most stringent and hardest to qualify for. Not only are the income restrictions set to a lower percentage of the federal poverty line, but there are also only a limited number of Section 8 properties available in each city. Your local Housing Agency serves as the regulator of these vouchers, and will also have a waiting list for you to sign up for if you are eligible. Your placement on the waiting list is mostly based on your family’s overall level of need, composition, income level and current living situation.