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How to Get Help If You’re Homeless

How to Get Help If You’re Homeless

Figuring out how to get help if you’re homeless can be extremely difficult. You may have limited access to both online and in-person resources. Additionally, the difficulties of being homeless can make it harder to fill out applications for assistance. You may not have any physical address to put down on forms, making it more complicated to secure the funds or housing you need. Fortunately, there are various ways to get help — you just need to know where to look.

So, how can you find emergency help with housing? What resources can you use to find food, health care, and employment as a homeless person? Finally, what government programs are available to meet your immediate financial and housing needs? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at what you can do to ensure that you have a roof over your head as soon as possible.

how to get help if you're homeless

Immediate Housing Assistance

If you’re currently homeless or worry that you may become homeless in the very near future, then you’ll want to contact the homeless shelter system in your area as soon as possible. Many localities have designated organizations or even homeless hotlines to call in the event of an emergency. Once you’re in contact with the system of homeless shelters in your area, you can begin the process of securing temporary housing for yourself and your family. 

Though it does not apply in every location, many communities nationwide make use of the 2-1-1 hotline for emergency homelessness services. By calling this number, you can find out if there are shelters or other assistance programs available in your area. This is often the fastest and easiest way to secure a bed when you’re experiencing homelessness.

However, even if your location does not participate in larger homelessness programs, you still have options. You can usually find out about homelessness services by contacting your County Department of Social Services, a church in your area, a food pantry, or even your local library. While you may be tempted to contact your local police department for assistance, many homelessness organizations advise against it. Some police departments may not be as helpful to homeless individuals as others, so it’s best to look to other organizations first.

housing instability

Getting Back On Your Feet

Once you have some kind of temporary shelter or housing to give you a better sense of stability and security, you’ll want to move toward securing food, health care, income, and long-term housing. 

Food

Most homeless shelters can provide some nutrition to incoming individuals and families. Additionally, many shelters are affiliated with larger food banks and homeless feeding programs. Even if your shelter cannot provide sufficient food during your stay, they can almost certainly point you in the direction of a nearby soup kitchen or local food pantry. 

Alternatively, you can apply for an EBT card to get government-subsizided food stamps. This card will allow you to purchase food at grocery stores and most restaurants. Consult our guide on Food Stamps to learn more about the SNAP EBT card program.

Health Care

If you’re in need of medical assistance, you’ll also want to learn about the free health care options available in your location. As of this writing, the Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) is the only federally-funded program that provides direct medical assistance to homeless people. You can contact the HCH to request information relate to primary care services, substance abuse programs, emergency room care, and even housing assistance. 

Here are a few more programs that you can contact for additional medical help:

Income or Employment

While food, shelter, and health care ensure that you have the necessities to live, you’ll still want to try to find a source of income to avoid homelessness in the future. Thankfully, there are several grant programs that provide temporary financial assistance to those experiencing homelessness. You can also find several programs that specifically help homeless individuals transition from homelessness to gainful employment and long-term housing. Here are a few of the best programs and resources for both short-term grants and help with employment:

It’s also worth your time to apply for temporary welfare assistance. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment benefits have been increased to help individuals and families during such a difficult time. If you qualify for unemployment, you can get a temporary income to help you acquire housing and pay your bills until you can find employment.

Long-Term Housing

If you’re homeless or have a low income, the federal government and various charitable programs offer help finding (and paying for) long-term housing. The most common option is Section 8 housing, which is reduced-cost housing for individuals and families. By acquiring Section 8 vouchers, you will only have to pay 30% of your income in rental costs. These apartments are owned by the government, allowing tax dollars to pay for the difference in what you pay and the standard cost of the apartment. Check out our guide to learn how to apply for Section 8 vouchers.

Even if you don’t qualify for Section 8 housing, you can still get help through charitable organizations. For example, residents of New York and Massachusetts can take advantage of HomeBASE to get long-term housing assistance. You can often find the best resources for housing stability by contacting charities and homeless services in your area.

The Bottom Line

Homelessness can happen to anyone. If you find yourself experiencing housing instability or a sudden drop in income that risks putting you on the streets, you’re not alone. You have plenty of resources and people who are ready and willing to help. By taking advantage of the resources outlined above, you can reduce the risks associated with homelessness and begin the path toward housing and job stability. Learning how to get help if you’re homeless just requires you to contact the right people and resources for help.

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