We've put together some key vocabulary to help you and your kids talk about family homelessness.
Keywords to help you talk to your kids about homelessness
It can be hard to understand why families become homeless, and why they have trouble finding a new place to live. There are a lot of reasons families are forced to leave their homes. Often a sudden event, such as an injury in the family or a parent losing their job, makes it hard for families to keep up with their everyday expenses.
Family homelessness is a very complex issue. It can be daunting for parents and teachers trying to explain to the children in their care why some families don’t have a home of their own.
Here at the be homeful project, we created list of keywords to help parents and teachers like you talk to your children. You can use the glossary below when talking about why some families lose their homes and what we can do to prevent that from happening.
Housing is where a person or family lives: their home. Housing can come in many different forms, such as houses or apartments.
Most families have some sort of housing, but sometimes something happens, such as a parent losing their job or someone in the family needing to go to the hospital, and a family can’t pay for their housing anymore. When that happens, they become homeless (without a home).
Being homeless is very stressful and frightening, both for parents and children. The best way to protect families from having to experience trauma because of homelessness is to keep them in their own home. When a family receives a little bit of help that lets them keep their housing, that’s called homelessness prevention, meaning they are prevented from becoming homeless. Homelessness prevention can come in many forms, such as a grocery card so families can buy food or donated furniture so a family can have beds in their new apartment.
Food can be very expensive. If a family is going through a tough time, they may not have enough money to buy food. Some families leave their homes and enter homeless shelters so that they will be able to feed their children. But families shouldn't have to give up their homes in order to eat. Giving families grocery cards can help with the cost of food for a short time until the family is able to buy food on their own.
Transportation is how parents get to and from work. Sometimes parents can walk to work because their job is near their home. Other times, they can carpool with a coworker. But often parents rely on their car or on buses to get to their jobs. This makes transportation very expensive for parents with low incomes. A little bit of assistance can give a family some relief, and gives parents time to figure out how they will be able to pay for transportation in the future.
In some families, the mom or dad has a job that they can only get to by driving a car. If a family’s car breaks down and they don’t have money to repair it, the parent has a very hard time getting to work. In some cases, if they can’t fix their car, they may even lose their job. If that happens, the family may not be able to pay for their housing. Helping with the cost of a car repair makes sure parents are able to go to work.
Depending on where you live, gas can be very expensive. Families that are very poor sometimes find it hard to pay for gas for their cars. If a family needs to drive their car to work, but they can’t pay for gas, they may be in danger of not being able to go to work and of losing their job. Gas cards, which can be used to pay for gas at a gas station, helps parents drive to work until they have enough money to pay for their gas themselves.
Some parents can use public transportation, such as a bus, to get to work. Bus passes usually don’t cost much, but for families that don’t earn very much, the cost of traveling by bus can become hard to pay. By supplying a family with a bus pass, parents can still go to work each day.
Sometimes families can pay for a new apartment, but they may have lost all their furniture, including mattresses, beds, and kitchen tables and they may not have the money to buy all the furniture they need. When faced with the choice of having no beds in their own apartment, or sleeping in a bed in a homeless shelter, some families choose to become homeless. Donating furniture to families that are able to move into an apartment keeps them from having to experience homelessness.
Some families may already have an apartment, but they may have trouble paying the rent. Rent is an amount of money paid to the landlord each month in return for living in the apartment. The landlord owns the apartment, while the family rents it from their landlord. In many places, renting an apartment can be very expensive. If a parent loses their job, or they suddenly have to pay a large expense, such as a medical bill, it can be hard to pay the rent. If they don’t pay the rent, they aren’t allowed to live in the apartment anymore, and they may become homeless. To prevent this, rent subsidies are used to help families pay their rent for a month or two by chipping in part of the cost. For a couple months, parents might have to pay only half of their rent, which means they will still be able to live in their apartment, and they have time to figure out how they will pay the rent again after the subsidy is gone.
If a family is forced to leave their apartment, they often have to find a new one quickly to keep from becoming homeless. But finding a new apartment can be expensive. In order to move into a new apartment, most families need to pay a security deposit, which is a sum of money paid to the landlord as a promise that they won’t damage the apartment. Security deposits can be expensive. Often they are as much as two full month’s rent, and it usually has to be paid in addition to the first month’s rent. For a family that doesn't have a lot of money, this can be very hard. Paying a family’s security deposit makes it easier for them to move into a new apartment – and away from homelessness.
A utility bill is the cost of water, electricity, or gas that a family must pay every month. In the winter, gas is often used to keep an apartment warm. In the summer, families have to pay for the electricity that makes their fans or air-conditioning work. Sometimes this can be too expensive for poor families, and they are not able to pay their utility bill. When that happens, their gas, electricity, or water supply is cut off, meaning they can’t use it anymore. It can be very difficult, and sometimes even dangerous to live without water, gas, or electricity, and most families are forced to leave their homes. In order to prevent that, families can receive utility assistance, which is help to pay all or some of their utility bill so that they can still use their gas, water, and electricity.