October 31, 2013 | by: Charm
Words by RACHEL STALLARD
Homelessness is a problem that can move in and push you out the door before you even realize it’s in the room. It’s also the reason the HiWay 80 Rescue Mission keeps building on to its Women and Families Shelter as fast as it can hammer. “When we originally opened as a soup kitchen and shelter in 1955, the homeless were alcoholics and 55-year-old males,” says Eric Burger, executive director. “Now, we still have those folks, but we have just as many who are here because a complete family is on the edge. The breadwinner gets an illness, and boom - he’s with us. You’ve got the single mom with three kids who’s always on the edge; so that diversity of reasons is the biggest change we’ve seen.”
While HiWay 80 had a regional reputation for helping homeless men, the women’s campus did not open until 1998, when the Board started seeing a marked increase in the number of homeless women. “Even then, it was mostly single women, or an occasional woman with a child. This trend of intact families is somewhat new to us,” Burger says. According to the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless, seven percent of households living below 30 percent of the Area Median Income in Texas are homeless. For families with children this “residential instability” can hamper development. “Children in homeless families struggle to keep up in school. For adults, exclusion from the housing market impedes success at work, interferes with job searches and may damage health.” (www.thn.org).