The Bandera Courier
Bandera Courier
Thursday December 14, 2017
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2017-09-14

Helping Hand & the ‘unsheltered’

Judith Pannebaker

They go by many names, “unsheltered,” “hidden” or even “mobile,” but those being referred to have two things in common — they’re homeless and they’re currently living in their vehicles.
Neil Donavan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless explained, “The newly or temporarily homeless often end up living in vehicles because the chronically homeless don’t have cars. The people with cars are the ones still hanging on to the remnants of their housed life.”
According to thehill.com, in the last two decades, income volatility has increased by more than 30 percent — and even higher for lower income households. In 2006, Michelle Kennedy, a former Senate page, wrote a book about her struggles with poverty after her marriage disintegrated. Titled “Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America,” the book describes Kennedy’s frustration of never having enough money for a security deposit on an apartment — but having too much to qualify for public assistance.
At age 24, Kennedy was suddenly single, homeless and living out of a car with her three small children. She waitressed night shifts while her kids slept out in the diner’s parking lot. Kennedy saved her tips in the glove compartment, setting aside a few quarters every week for truck stop showers for her and the children.
Countless articles have been written about the problem. One, titled “Most Americans are One Paycheck Away from the Street,” references the fact that an estimated 63 percent of Americans have no savings to deal with emergencies. Several articles used an unexpected debt of $500 that pushes people over the edge from living in an apartment or home to having to live in their vehicle, struggling to find food, warmth and a safe place to live.
For low income people in Bandera County, an unexpected debt of just $50 — let along $500 — would prove insurmountable, as Jesse Parks, executive director of Bandera’s Helping Hand Crisis Center, can attest.
“Recently, a woman came into our thrift store looking for food. After speaking with her, I realized she needed a lot more than just food. The woman needed everything,” Parks said.
She learned that the woman was originally from Ingleside, but had relocated to Bandera County. “She and her son, a young adult with disabilities, were living in their vehicle, which was parked at a friend’s house,” Parks said. “Working with her, we supplied the family with clothes and a tent and cots to sleep on.”
Eventually, through the continued assistance of Parks and Helping Hand, the woman and her son found a permanent place to stay and the woman now has a job.
“We stay in touch all the time, and she’s doing really well,” Parks said. “She’s one of our success stories.”
Helping Hand was able to assist the little family due to the generosity of the Bandera County community. To volunteer or provide a monetary donation to Helping Hand, contact Parks at 830-796-8300.