ENDURING “SHELTER-IN-PLACE” FROM A CAR

Amy, her three kids and two dogs lived in their car for two months.

In March, Amy’s three children, ages 12, 14, and 19, were home for spring break. They were preparing to move from their current townhouse into a new rental home. Amy had been saving for this; she put a deposit down and started planning their move. During the move, the family was caught off-guard when they discovered that someone else was already living there. In a matter of days, Amy went from hopeful and optimistic about her family’s future to devastated about the situation. The only safe shelter they had was their 1998 station wagon.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to spread in the community while Amy’s family was experiencing homelessness.

Schools were transitioning to online learning, businesses were laying off employees, and stay-at-home orders were being mandated. Unfortunately, Amy was laid off as a result of COVID-19, which meant she wouldn’t have the means to buy food for her family or put gas in the car.

Amy’s family had to establish a new routine.

Operating on a meager budget, they no longer had easy access to bathrooms, a way to clean their clothes, or readily available food when they were hungry. Thankfully, each of the kids received breakfast and lunch from the school district, which they would all share. The school also provided laptops to each of the children to continue their education. Amy looked for ways to use free internet connection while businesses were still open, often spending the day with her kids near a local coffee shop or fast-food restaurant. She would apply for jobs as her kids participated in online school activities, but when stores began to close, they were out of luck.

As social distancing in the community became more rigid, the family would try to spend days at the park when they could; anything that would allow them to stretch and get out of the car. Amy called all the emergency shelters she could find; everyone had the same resounding answers – she and her family would be placed on a waitlist. For nearly two months, Amy her three kids and two dogs continue to live in their car.

When Amy got the call from the Family Housing Hub notifying her that there was an available room at UMOM’s family emergency shelter, she was overcome with relief. For the first time in eight weeks, she wasn’t worried about when her family would eat their next meal or if they’d be safe while sleeping. Upon arrival at UMOM, Amy and her family participated in the mandatory quarantine period to ensure that she and her family were healthy. Now, Amy is working with her case manager to apply for jobs and look at affordable housing options. Amy’s oldest child has applied or UMOM’s Homegrown Foodservice Training Program, and her younger two kids are participating in summer activities at the Boys & Girls Club.

“We’re excited and ready to start a new journey on a new path and that’s possible because of the people who have helped us get here.