Somewhere today in Huntsville… A single mom who has recently found herself homeless will agonize over where she and her teenage son will sleep tonight. An 18-year-old girl – who has aged out of the state’s foster care system – will learn that she will not be considered an “adult” in the State of Alabama for another year and that she is therefore not eligible for benefits under federal and state safety net programs. Single mothers across our community earning income that falls below the poverty line will struggle to care for their families.
These situations are the realities for many women living here in our own backyard. For far too many, the quality of life that has earned our community numerous awards and accolades does not seem accessible to them.
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Based on input from a recent Community Conversation with cross-sector leadership from across Madison County, I’ve learned so much more about this issue. I want to share what we found with you.
Homeless Moms & Sons
Most homeless shelters separate women and men for safety reasons. Although younger children and teenage girls can stay with their moms, boys over the age of 13 cannot stay with their moms in the women’s area of the shelter. This leaves single moms with teenage boys with very few options. Now, I understand better why some homeless families choose to sleep in their cars – it may be their only option to stay together.
The Foster Care Age Gap
Alabama’s foster system covers children until the age of 18; however, a child is not considered an “adult” in Alabama until the age of 19. This gap creates some unanticipated consequences for children who have nowhere to go once they “age out” of the foster care system. Teenage girls – not yet 19 and therefore not considered adults – who find themselves pregnant and homeless have extra challenges in getting adequate prenatal care for their baby and post-delivery care for their newborn. At the time when health care is needed most to set a child up for a healthy future, it is least available.
A Confusing System
Our community has incredible resources to help the homeless. However, many people find it difficult to navigate through the maze of service providers to be able to adequately access those resources. The Advisory Committee of the Women’s Endowment Fund is committed to providing a high-impact grant to begin addressing this issue. We seek to be a convener between the generous members of our community and the programs that are committed to making systemic changes for homeless women and families. We can’t do everything, but we can all do something.
Can You Help?
We believe that our community has the resources to do better. We believe that together we can do more than any individual can do alone to support the homeless women and families in our community. We believe that improving the quality of life for one member of our community improves our community as a whole. If you believe this too, please join us by visiting www.communityfoundationhsv.org/women to learn more about this issue and to donate to become a part of the solution to this problem.
Together we can make a difference. Together we can do more to support homeless women and families in our community.