Most times they are alone. Sometimes there are families together supporting each other through their situation.
Most homeless shelters in Fort Worth do not cater to families and have only single person facilities.
These standards either force families to split up — to qualify for shelter — or make do however they can outside of the shelter. Usually making do means spending nights in cars or on the streets.
Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County is among the few homeless shelters who are working to satisfy the demand for family housing.
UGM-TC’s director of program services Deb DeLay said their family units were intended to help with the demand.
“We’re the only shelter here in Fort Worth that provides shelter to fathers with children and so we were receiving a lot of phone calls and decided that we needed to incorporate that part into our program,” DeLay said.
The family units are private rooms for the individual families with a bed for the parents, bunk beds for the children, a privacy curtain to separate the two beds, and a private bathroom.
And while shelters assisting families are few and far between, single father families have it that much tougher finding shelter.
Kevin Jones, a single father and current resident at UGM-TC, said most shelters don’t cater to families without a mother.
“I was with [my son’s] mother for eight and a half years and during that time everything was okay because she had a name which we could get into some houses and ya know living arrangements um apartments or whatever,” Jones said. “After we split up – I had the money of course but nobody wants to lease or rent to a convicted felon.”
Jones, and his son Kaden, have been staying at UGM-TC while Jones tries to turn things around for his family.
“We were out one night, it was pretty hot and I didn’t want to leave the car just running because we’d be wasting gas… and I’m looking at him sleeping in the passenger side seat and he wakes up and he looks up at me and he says ‘Dad it’s gonna be alright.'”
Kaden’s confidence was the reason Jones applied for residency with UGM-TC.
The application process is extensive and the mission only takes a handful of applicants. To view the application process, visit their services page.
One reason for the exclusivity is the resources provided to its residents.
DeLay said UGM-TC has numerous case managers that assist with the family units and implement programs for the residents, like an online budgeting class to teach the skills needed to live stably on a salary.
The budgeting class, DeLay said, is often helpful because many participants are not used to planning for the long-term.
“They live moment to moment day by day and they really don’t have those executive functioning skills that we all have,” DeLay said. “They don’t know how to problem solve, like I said, they are in crisis mode so it’s whatever that comes up that moment that day and that’s what they focus on.”
Another course offered is an intensive cooking course with the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
Jones is a member of the cooking course and is learning to be a chef.
“They’re looking at me as a human being, a single father who is trying to take care of his son and then giving me the resources to do so you know?” Jones said.
And UGM-TC has had several stories similar to Jones’ over the past five years since it opened the single fathers unit: a father who does everything possible to get back on track with his life for his family.
“We have always used our success stories here at the mission,” DeLay said.
The success stories they post are summaries of a resident’s life before coming to UGM-TC, their life at UGM-TC, and their life once the resident has moved out and become an independent member of society.
To see more success stories from UGM-TC, visit their news page.
Shelters like UGM-TC are working together to assist homeless families in their journey back to a stable life.