The volatility of today's globalized job market has left thousands of people in the U.S. homeless or at risk of losing their home. It is a desperate, difficult situation that nobody should have to face. The one piece of good news is, if you or your loved ones are facing homelessness, there are programs and organizations designed to help. Homelessness assistance exists in various forms, and if you are without a home or at risk of losing your home, you will qualify for many assistance programs. Here are some of the best homelessness assistance programs:
Department of Social Services (DSS) Benefits
As long as you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, you are eligible for benefits from the DSS program. Applications can be completed online or by mail. If you cannot work and are living alone, you can qualify for an approximately $200 a month stipend, with the amount being as high as $570/month for a family of three. DSS can also help you move into transitional or permanent housing, and assist with costs such as moving expenses, security deposits for heating, and repairs.
If you receive financial assistance from the DSS and become homeless, you can be eligible for up to sixty days of emergency housing a year. Contact a local DSS number within 45 days of when you lose your home to apply, and they will help you find emergency housing. You can also call the DSS 2-1-1 number to get information about homeless shelters, soup kitchens that serve free meals, and food pantries that provide food for the homeless. Elderly or disabled persons may also be eligible for subsidized housing.
Continuum of Care (CoC)
The CoC, a DSS program, is designed to assist individuals and families alike who are struggling with homelessness. To qualify, you must be homeless or at risk of losing your housing, and applications can be found online by searching your local CoC administering agency. The CoC will help you move into transitional or permanent housing, both by helping you find a place to live and by providing financial assistance.
SNAP Food Stamps
If you have no income, or if your income is less than your monthly rent and utilities, SNAP will help you pay for food. If you fit these criteria, simply apply by calling the DSS number (a phone interview is usually necessary,) and within seven days you can start receiving food stamps.
National Coalition for the Homeless
The National Coalition for the Homeless is a great resource to find your way to local homelessness assistance and prevention programs, be they national programs or community assistance. It is important to note here that if you live in a rural or otherwise sparsely populated area, you are more likely to find help from a community action agency. The NCH site provides links to National Community Action Partnership websites, which you can search by your area to find community assistance. If you live in an area with active national homeless assistance programs, searching the NCH database by your area should provide results on where they are based and how to apply.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD is another national program that provides homeless assistance to many parts of the country, particularly urban areas. Their website (HUD.gov) has a Resource Locator Tool to help you discover what HUD assistance is available in your area. Assistance provided by the HUD can include grants and stipends, such as the ESG (Emergency Solutions Grants Program,) housing or the RHSP (Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program, which assists homeless or at-risk individuals in rural areas.
In addition to all of these resources, it's worth checking to see if there are groups at work in your community providing homelessness assistance. Oftentimes these organizations will be quicker to provide aid and may exist even in areas where national organizations aren't active. If you find yourself without a home or at risk of losing your home, don't lose heart--whether you need assistance finding a new temporary or permanent residence, locating shelters, or getting food via soup kitchens, pantries, and food stamps, there are organizations both local and national that are there to help.