Goodness, the times are hard! Everyday the Panama City Rescue Mission is getting calls from families who are losing their apartments or homes and needing emergency shelter while they regroup. As the Women and Families Manager, the responsibility for overseeing their case management comes to me. We have only 2 family rooms in which to house them. Today we vacated both rooms, moving one family into temporary transitional housing and the other into a permanent situation. Before the rooms had even gotten cleaned, we had families lined up to move into them for 5 nights of emergency shelter and case management, most of them single mothers, somtimes with a “boyfriend”, sometimes not. Five nights is never enough time to begin to stabilize a family. It generally is taking 15-30 days to find jobs and get a paycheck in hand, access community resources, identify housing, gather utility deposits, round up furniture, etc. In the meantime we’re working with our day center client advocate, the county school system resource person, Department of Child and Family representatives, and others.
This is challenging work and often taxes my problem solving skills. But it is a good feeling to get a family to a place of reasonable stability……although how that is defined is a moving target. It is such a fragile thing. Getting a job and moving into housing is good, but I see how quickly it can be undone by an illness that forces one out of work for even a few days or by a change in the economy that results in loss of overtime or scaled back schedules.
It makes me all the more grateful for the education and opportunities my family has had. In spite of how our circumstances have changed financially in recent years, we are still quite secure by comparison to many. We are in no jeopardy of losing housing or transportation, of going hungry or having insufficient clothing.
I see children weekly who are frightened of the future, wondering where they’ll be sleeping the next night and how they’ll get their clothes cleaned for school. I cannot begin to imagine the impact these circumstances are going to have on the rest of their lives. Can trust be built in such an environment? Can optimism bud? How resilient must one be to survive emotionally? And how can I help not just with the food and clothing, but with the encouragement to keep on keeping on?