Lost Families, Or Are They Homeless?


A child opens her eyes, today, and moves around the cluttered motel room. The sun is peeking through the curtains, burning her eyes as she wipes the sleep away. Pushing off the thin motel furnished comforter, she opens the curtains and peers outside, to the crowded parking lot. A few new cars, she has not seen before, are parked in spaces normally occupied by the neighbors vehicles. Looking back into the room, her eyes are filled with the clutter of toys and clothes scattered and overflowing the boxes, where she and her siblings store their things.

It’s Saturday, and she, we will call her Lisa, does not know what is going to happen today. Has it been 28 days which will force them to move overnight?, Is any of her friends, moving and going away today?. She already lost three friends over the last few weeks. Some families were pushed out because they could not continue to pay the large weekly rents. And others were forced to move for other reasons. Is there new kids, moving in today or is there only what remains of the kids, who are stuck in the same cycle, she and her family have found themselves?


Being Forced To Enter Life, In The “Grey Zone."

As the recession deepens, more and more Southern California families are being forced from their homes. Many are finding shelter by living week to week in older, inexpensive motels. This is an opening to an article done by ABC’s Carlos Garcia, in march of 2009. The article points out how family struggles daily to ensure they pay their large weekly rents, and the fight this family is having to simply feed their children.

It is not an uncommon event, in fact, the occurrences of this type of situation increases everyday as families are pushed out of their homes; due to job losses. These families are forced to go to area churches, food banks and charity organizations for assistance daily. Unfortunately, since charities and food banks are seeing a significant reduction of donated goods, families are going hungry and in some cases are being turned out to the streets.

Public Assistance programs do not recognize these families as “Homeless”, however when these agencies are first approached, the initial interviewer will push them into the “homeless” category. Supposedly, this is to allow their needs to be expedited. However, when the families case is further looked into, The family will fall just short of being allowed to get needed assistance. Why? Because they own a car, valued over a given amount, or they have a bank account or a retirement account from their employer.

This and other families are not looking for sympathy, nor hand outs. Most of these families are victims, and therefore forced into this position of living. They are looking for a way to improve the way their family has been classified, by public agencies. The current means of classifying their situation, causes daily increases in stress and a decrease in ways for them to get back into permanent housing situations.

Police Agencies, are abusive to most families living in motels stretching policing powers beyond their authority. The Police Agencies, including the Buena Park and Anaheim Police Agencies, believe that they can harass families by frequently questioning and detaining family members, for no apparent reason, enter upon private property of the motels and impound vehicles owned by the families, based upon assumptions that a law will be broken. When a confrontation ensues, then the police claim that the property is public property, therefore they have the authority to conduct their activities.


An Investigation By One City:

The City of Anaheim, California visited this problem within the city by forming the “Anaheim Collaboration to Assist Motel Families.” Their purpose Purpose Statement: The Collaboration provides information and networking opportunities for human and social service providers who assist motel residents in Anaheim. The group meets to share information, resources, and co-ordinate solutions to the needs of homeless motel residents of Anaheim. The regular Collaboration meetings are NOT structured to provide direct assistance to individual clients.

This collaborative is made up of volunteering agencies and volunteer which interviewed families they found in motels, within the city limits. The stories they were told by families and family members whom were “locked” into the cycle of living in motel rooms, were staggering and “eye-popping.” The program, as stated in their statement of purpose, mainly was to bring the numbers of families and the “Dead-ended” cycle, these families are consumed in, to the public eyes.

The reasoning found for these families moving to Motels, instead of Apartments or Homes, as cited by the City of Anaheim Collaborative was a variation of foreclosure on primary homes, bad credit issues due to foreclosure, evictions, loss of jobs, reduction of family income, illnesses or injury causing the family to experience all the previous issues, while awaiting for unemployment or disability income to start.

What Is The Definition of “Homeless?”

According to the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act: A homeless person is an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, or who primary residence is a public or private shelter designed to provide temporary living, or is an institution the provides temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations for humans.

Backed by the McKinney-Vento Act, which states: a definition for a person “at risk”of begin homeless as those persons who face imminent eviction (within one week) from a private dwelling or institution and who have no subsequent residence or resources to obtain housing. (As cited by the Anaheim City Collaborative report.)

The Living Environment:

Most area motels require that children be kept indoors, and not allowed outside the rooms or in the parking areas, to play and exercise. Because of these forced restrictions placed upon families, the children are often times required to wait for their parents to have sufficient time, to take them to area parks and recreational areas, to be with friends.

Uncertainty, is an everyday expectation for the children, like Lisa, being raised in this situation. You can blame the parents all you wish. But with the high weekly rents it is difficult at best, for even working parents. The high rents prevent them from being able to earn enough, to save for improvement. Once the weekly rents are paid, the family struggles to ensure that there is enough food, to feed the family.

Cited in the Anaheim Collaborative, parents claimed that they were fearful of asking for assistance, or looking for assistance due to lack of knowledge about a particular program, Fear of Social Services removing the children permanently, and Inability to qualify, due to vehicle ownership, or credit ratings.

Victims of Financial Crisis Move Into Low-Cost Motels

There Has To Be Something, These Families Can Do.:

Lisa’s father works all day, then is on call all night seven days a week, for a measly $400.00 per week income. Her Mother, worked as a “seasonal” worker for an area theme park, but work assignments are few and too far between, to count on; although she is constantly looking for permanent employment. They have lived in the motels, since last year and have been lucky to obtain some assistance, for which they are great full for, through area churches and other charities; although all too often, the assistance they do get, it comes too infrequently and is only enough resources to aid for about a day or two, in feeding the family.

This family has attempted to get on a Food Stamp Program, offered through the state, but has been ignored by the case worker, and has been waiting for this assistance for over a month and a half. The case worker refuses to return phone calls, for the family to find out what is happening to their case. They have filed for housing assistance, but since they live in a motel, the agency tries to claim they are not homeless. Yet, when they try to go through housing verification they are told that living in a motel does not qualify as alternative housing, like an apartment complex.

 Not Only In The City In This Story:

This story is repeated all over the nation, not just in this California city. The Internet is flooded with stories, like this one with situational issues almost identical, as well. Lisa’s family, is not the only family, experiencing these issues. The fact is, that the number of families falling into this situation, is increasing daily. Most of the people whom are residing in these motels are good and honest people, whom have experienced bad economic situations, and were looking for an opportunity to improve their situation.

Most of these families, are tax paying, law abiding and educated individuals whom have come from a wide array of backgrounds; whom have just had no choice but to move into the cycle of living in motels, to maintain their families and jobs. It is not widely known that most motels that allow weekly rentals, charge in upwards of 1600.00 per month and require approximately $400.00 Per week in rents. In Lisa’s family, if her father becomes ill or misses just one day, it will put them on the streets, the next week.

Do you know a family stuck in motels, as a primary home?

  • Yes, I feel sorry for them
  • Yes, it sickens me
  • No, Hope I never will Nor Do I Care
  • No, But I see families living in motels and I feel sorry for them
  • No
  • Yes
See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 1 comment

Yadira De Santiago 6 years ago

I think this article was awesome. Meaning that this is that true that many individuals face, and how social workers refuse to return a call. I am actually doing a research paper for school and this article was very touching and I hope many families stay together through togh situation like these. May God Bless them ALL.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article