FAMILIES FIRST COMMUNITY CENTER
Serving Homeless Families with Children in Hancock County
 
                                                    www.familiesfirstellsworth.org
 
 

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Our mission is to break the cycle of homelessness by equipping families with minor children with the skills they need to gain self-sufficiency.

Relationship Between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Homelessness




Brain Science Can Lead to New Ways Out of Poverty
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Many people are homeless but yet have some sort of roof over their heads:  a shelter, couch-surfing, a camper, a car, a storage unit, etc., though often without heat, water, or much, if any, food.  However, when MaineHousing counted those actually living outside on arguably the coldest day of the year (January 24, 2017), there were still 41 individuals in Hancock County.

Transitional Homes with similar philsophies to FFCC that teach life skills, offer referrals, education, medical, and safety planning, are highly recommended by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a report on the effectiveness of transitional housing programs for families and it cites the following encouraging data as they pertain to transitional housing for families:

  • Mothers’ employment rose 43%;
  • Post-secondary credentials increased 18%;
  • 86% of families leaving transitional housing moved directly to their own residences;
  • 75% of mothers paid all of their rent;
One year post-TH, homelessness was too rare to be reliably measured.

  • 42% of children previously separated rejoined their families.
  • 69% of children along better with peers.
  • 48% got along with better with siblings.
  • 57% got along with better with adults.
  • 63% enjoyed school more.

Virtually all mothers reported that services they received were helpful. Also, a much higher percentage of mother worked after exiting the programs than they had at program entry. The most-used services were case management, goalsetting, primary health care, life skills training, and employment.

A HUD report, “Life After Transitional Housing for Homeless Families” defines TH programs as lasting not more than 24 months (FFCC plans 12-18) and offering supportive services designed to help clients make the transition to regular housing.  The report states that:

  • Participants in smaller programs (like FFCC) were more likely to have their own place at moveout and more likely to live with the same household members at the beginning and end of the follow-up year.
  • Longer stays in TH (again, like FFCC) were associated with higher levels of educational attainment and employment at moveout and greater likelihood of continued employment during the follow-up period.  Families spending more months in TH were significantly more likely to have a place of their own for a whole year after leaving TH.  Receipt of help for some specific issues was associated with better outcomes.  For instance, mothers who got help with education and training earned higher wages one year later.

The conclusion states, in part, “TH programs appear to help the families who use them to achieve some important goals, such as maintaining stable housing and treatment substance abuse.  Further, longer stays in TH may give families the opportunity to develop skills that seem to pay off in a higher probability of regular employment… The study suggests the importance of encouraging more TH programs to target their considerable resources on the families with multiple barriers that would not have been able to accomplish as much on their own.

In rural areas like Hancock County, generational poverty is the #1 cause of homelessness. 

The two-generation approach of providing housing and services in one location has the endorsement of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.  Specifically, the Alliance recommends “transitional housing with supportive services to allow for the development of skills that will be needed once permanently housed.”  There are no other such facilities providing these services in Hancock County.

While the state has emergency shelters and an array of services for marginalized populations, the traditional approaches employed are not able to adequately meet the needs of homeless families with minor children, especially in rural areas. Compounding the problem is less government funding available for the support of any type of emergency or supportive housing. As well, many locations in Maine are physically isolated due to the rural nature of most of the state, and Hancock
County is no exception. At present, services and housing for low socioeconomic families are widely dispersed throughout Hancock County.  This isolation further cuts people off from the services that are available, putting an already at risk population in place to make the choices that contribute to potential joblessness and homelessness and exacerbates generational poverty and homelessness.

In 2016, at just one emergency shelter in Hancock County:

Housing:  Housed and fed 95 women, men, and children totaling 6,780 bed nights at the shelter.  The number of people is slightly down from the last set of statistics, however the number of bed nights has almost tripled.  This shows that we must keep people in emergency shelters (usually termed 3 months only) for much longer periods of time due to lack of housing available.

Food Pantry:  provided 14,670 emergency food boxes and produce.  This is too has almost tripled from the last set of statistics.

First time Tenants: helped to move 93 individuals into permanent, stable housing, with the aid of a rental voucher, and provided furniture, linens and household goods.  This has almost tripled since the last set of statistics.

Clothing Closet:  452 benefitted.  This has more than doubled since the last set of statistics.

Back to School:  over 50 children received help with school supplies

Financial Assistance:  almost 100 people received financial assistance of some kind to help with electric, security deposits, medications, glasses, co-pays, etc.

Help for the Holidays in 2016:  A combined 390 Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets were given out and toys were given to 420 children at Christmas 2016.  This is up more than 100 additional children from 2015.

WHO COULD NOT BE HELPED:  The following numbers pertain to families only; there are additional numbers for inidividuals:

38 families, consisting of a total of 131 parents and children, had to be turned away from one emergency shelter due to lack of space from January - August 2016.  Of those 131 people, 80 were children.

At another shelter, approximately 2 families per month are turned away due to lack of space.

All of these numbers are up from the year before.  In 2015, at just one institution in Hancock County:  Almost 300 people were homeless and sought shelter.  There were of course many others that did not seek housing, but continued to live in tents, cars, storage units, and “couch-surf” from house to house. 

The average age of these people was between 21 and 45 years of age, with age ranges from 6 months to 45 years, and the vast majority of the population was women with young children.  Income was approximately $600 a year.

Maine ranks ninth in the nation and first in New England for food insecurity, and nearly 25% of children go hungry every day.

In Maine, the rate of homelessness grew by 37.1% in 2013-2014.

The annual Point in Time (PIT) survey for the State of Maine confirms that three times as many females as males make up the adult homeless family population.

Chronic homelessness represents 15% of the 2014 PIT survey and 23% of the 2015 PIT survey in Maine.

Median household incomes are slightly lower in Hancock County than the rest of the state (2%), making housing security difficult for many households (2009-2013).  However, median home values are slightly higher than in the state's (13.6%), making property taxes and therefore, rents, difficult to pay.

Maine as a whole is very rural (43.1 persons per square mile) and Hancock County is more so (only 34.3 persons per square mile), making isolation and problems learning of and getting to services that much more difficult for the population.

Hancock County has an estimated population of 54,696 (ACS 2014). Its population is older than that of the state as a whole, with nearly a quarter (21.5%) of the population over 65 years, is predominantly white (96.3%), and an estimated 5,513 veterans (ACS 2009-2013) reside here.

Many of the current population of homeless children in Hancock County are what we call “third-generation” homeless or semi-homeless.  We live in a very rural area with little to no transportation available to the homeless population once they are in housing.  This determines everything:  parents cannot work, volunteer, have access to needed services, education, training, medical care, child care, etc.  It guarantees that parents will be on a housing voucher forever and pass this societal “norm” on to their children.