Life As It Is

There are many people who do not have the opportunity to live in a home or be surrounded by family members that support them. Not many people have to deal with finding a place to live or endure the discomfort of never knowing when you’re going to have to make your next move. Most of the time people in this situation have to seek support from social services, programs that provide transitional housing, housing assistance, or independent living facilities.

Many people don’t get to see situations like this from the point of view of those who have gone through them. However, I have not only had the chance to see this from their point of view, but also have been able to talk with them about it personally. A close friend of mine has not only dealt with this on numerous occasions, but is still enduring the misfortune of unstable housing. It’s time to hear her story as she tells me about the good and bad things that a transitional housing facility can offer.

Transitional housing is a solution to help homeless people avoid living on the streets all the time. Although it is temporary, the person involved feels like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders for a few weeks or even months. My interviewee first discovered transitional housing in 2016, when she decided she wanted to be independent. She felt that there were a lot of advantages and disadvantages of the housing system.

“It helped me find low-income housing and different programs that would help me become a better person all around,” she stated in our interview.

Keep in mind that she was totally blind while doing this and that didn’t stop her from living on her own. Some disadvantages were the safety and liability aspect of the facilities. She was often intrigued by what the program assistance would be like and if they could accommodate her as well. She used the foster care system from her childhood to teen years. The foster care system allowed her to live with families temporarily and decide if they wanted to adopt her or not. She lived with five different families and they were all from different areas of Florida. She came to realize that the foster system wasn’t her cup of tea. There was a lot of tension in the homes due to the competition from other members that she was staying with.

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In the Florida Times-Union article titled “Foster Care Are Core of Child Welfare System, More Needed in Duval, Nassau Counties,” writer Beth Cravey describes the many challenges that a child may face while looking for a place to live permanently. In the article, Cravey states,  “The number of children in foster care average about 300 a month.” Every single one of those children need to find a temporary home and that’s what this article is about. Most of the children that enter foster care are abused or neglected by the people that are supposed to love and care for them. My interviewee witnessed that firsthand, multiple times. She was soon old enough to live on her own and that’s when she discovered the Youth Crisis Center of Jacksonville, following up on that discovery was the best decision she has ever made.

The YCC is a housing facility that helps homeless people who have been abused or need temporary housing while in school. This facility, by far, was her favorite one, as she was able to live in her own one-bedroom apartment which came with a lot of responsibility. She was able to do everything she wanted to, such as cook, clean, and invite friends over. The management was very patient and treated her fairly. They also gave her accommodations which other facilities never did. She felt like an adult for the first time while living at this facility.

There are many people that have impacted my friend’s journey thus far. First and foremost is her daughter, who encouraged her to keep going and that there is always hope in the world. Secondly, are the many social workers that helped her look for housing and public assistance. Without them, she wouldn’t be where she is now. Finally,  it was her teacher, who has been there from the very beginning and serves as her primary role model. All of these people impacted her in so many ways and she is very grateful for all their help and support during her life.

A Folio Weekly Magazine article titled, “The Face Of Homelessness” gives us an idea on how social workers are trying to eliminate homelessness for good. Also, they want to make sure that everyone has a place to stay within 30 days of their need. This article details about the social workers and what their job is in supporting the Jacksonville community. “The goal of the coalition is to make homelessness brief, rare and nonrecurring. The future of homelessness is getting to functional zero,” says the article. The future of Jacksonville is one with no homelessness, as put by the social workers, and they will do whatever it takes to make this possible.

In spite of the goals stated above, my friend Nikki has voiced her opinion about the need for change in housing eligibility, the requirements that are enforced, and other systems of social service. In certain situations in the foster care system, it is mandatory to do inspections. One change that Nikki would like to see is surprise inspections instead of preannounced inspections. In situations where a foster parent was unfit, they had plenty of opportunities to present themselves as the complete opposite, which defeats the purpose.

Another area of housing and social services that Nikki would like to see change is the process of finding housing. It is a very lengthy process because of the long waiting lists and few accessible areas. Nikki goes on to mention that one of the main problems in housing is the large number of people that need it, and the shortage of apartment complexes or homes that are available. To improve this situation she suggests to either build more complexes and homes for more accessibility or to create more programs for people in need of stable living. These programs should focus on employing the homeless at fair wages, teach money management, and provide counseling for those who may fall into a cycle of destruction.

After the interview, I understood more about the struggles that a homeless person endures and the problems they face in trying to become stable. I learned about the foster care system and what it takes to find a stable living, as well as the many people that helped Nikki along her journey. This interview has also given me a better insight into the transitional housing process for the homeless people in Jacksonville.

by Amanda Bornhoffer

 

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