Therapist case manager Sarah Pain Wagner sits down to talk housing and families.
Q: In early 2017, Baltimore City released a new round of housing vouchers, including 55 for Health Care for the Homeless to manage—10 of them designated for families. What does having a home mean for the families you see?
Sarah: I’m working with one recently-housed family now—Sandra* and her three-year-old daughter. For Sandra, housing means autonomy. After 2 ½ years of doubling up with family and staying in shelters, she wanted space—like any parent deserves—to make decisions for her family based on what they need rather than what works for the people around them.
Q: How are barriers different for families experiencing homelessness than for single adults?
Sarah: Child care is the biggest issue. Sandra doesn’t have family support or anyone to watch her kid other than herself. She is scrambling to get her daughter into a headstart program after the year has already started so that she can look for jobs. She feels like she’s already asked a lot of the people around her.
Q: What does housing mean for Sandra’s daughter?
Sarah: Her daughter is really sweet and happy go lucky. Every time I see her she’s always reading or coloring. I just dropped off a whole Frozen-themed bedroom for her. She was really excited to show me her new room and point out her hello kitty things! Sandra says this is the first time her daughter has ever had her own bedroom.
Q: Now that this family has a home, what’s next?
Sarah: Sandra is really independent and capable but she’s been trying to survive for so long that she hasn’t been able to invest in herself. It’s a lot being homeless. It’s a lot to be a single mom. I’m helping her to get settled right now. To put some plans in place for her future—she wants to go back to school and be a nurse’s aide. And, together, we’ll focus on what wellness looks like for her and her daughter.
*Sandra is an alias.