Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home sweet (motel room) home

Posted by on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 4:00 PM

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"60 Minutes" aired a powerful segment Sunday night about homeless families in Florida living in cars and, if they're lucky, motel rooms. Titled "Hard Times Generation," and reported by Scott Pelley, (you can watch it in its entirety here) it reminded me of two local stories that covered the same topic.

In July 2010, the Indy's Jessica Mayrer profiled a Missoula mom and her three kids living in a Kia Spectra. After nearly two months in the four-door sedan, the family was put into a local motel room thanks to the YWCA's Gateway program, the only local emergency-housing program that consistently shelters families.

In May of this year, Keila Szpaller at the Missoulian did a longer story that coincided with YWCA Missoula's 100th anniversary. The story started with the details of another homeless mom and her three kids (as well as their three pet turtles), all of whom had just been placed in a local motel room thanks to the YWCA. Szpaller reported that "an estimated 350 other families" had gone through the YWCA's emergency housing program within the last year.

Things haven't really changed since both stories were published. Patty Murphy, program director of Ada's Place, a transitional housing program affiliated with YWCA that specifically helps homeless women and children, says numbers were steady during the last fiscal year. From June 2010 to July 2011, 327 families came to the YWCA Gateway program for some form of support. According to Murphy, 89 families, including 156 kids, took advantage of the program's 50-day motel housing option. Another 179 families used the one-, two-, or three-day emergency motel vouchers.

"We're seeing a lot of families that have never been homeless before, and that's what's really different this year," says Murphy. "It's an embarrassing situation for them just to walk through the door and ask for help. There's a lot of adjustment. They don't know how to manipulate the system, where to go and what to do."

For more information on the Gateway program, visit the YWCA. The Joseph's Residence, run by the Pov, is another option but typically has a long waiting list — it's currently at three-to-nine months, depending on the type of unity needed. Also, Mountain Home Montana serves mothers ages 16—24 and has six bedrooms and five transitional housing apartments.

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