Just got off the phone with an 18 year old girl who is homeless. She called Worthington St. Shelter for Women, where she has stayed before, but was told there were no beds available. Now, this is interesting, because the official policy of Friends of the Homeless, who administers both the men's and the women's shelter, is to never turn anyone away. So I called Worthington St., and sure enough, it's true she was denied because the shelter is full. The very nice woman I spoke with, when I mentioned that I thought there was a no turn-away policy, said that that policy needs to change.
"We're seeing the same kind of numbers," she said, "that we usually see in the winter." We commiserated with each other a bit. I chose to wait to insist they shelter this girl until I tried some other options.
I have a call into the homeless coordinator at the Springfield School Department, because the girl is still in high school. I also have a call into Sr. Sanga, who runs Annie's House, although she never has an opening. Last time I talked to her, she told me that the women just weren't turning over, because they couldn't fuind housing they could afford.
I called my girl back to tell her what I was trying, and to ask her a little more about how she became homeless.
"I've been in a foster home since I was 14, and when I was 18, I was stubborn and signed myself out of DCF custody," she said. "Then I stayed at the Worthington Shelter for six weeks. Then I went to stay with a friend in Worcester, but it wasn't safe-- the people in his house do drugs and I don't, it was pretty crazy there."
I suggested she try to sign herself back into DCF-- not easy, but not impossible.
Anyone have other ideas?
With what we know is happening to homeless families, all I can do is echo my girl and say, It's pretty crazy out there.
UPDATE: REALLY, REALLY BAD NEWS! Friends of the Homeless has a NEW policy-- if you've been staying at one of their shelters and leave for what is considered to be a "housed" situation, you are not eligible for shelter for a year! My girl is technically in that situation, but I spoke to the director, Bill Miller, who is going to call her and who might be willing to make an exception.
But more bad news: Bill says that those in the overnight shelter are going to have to come up with a housing plan, and if the "guests" are considered to be "noncompliant"(a pretty subjective term), they will have to leave. He says there are no time limits on shelter-- yet.
You would think the provider world would be more aware of what happens when you put people in a corner and give them no way out.