Voices of Family Promise: How Can You Quarantine at Home When You Don’t Have a Home?

March 31, 2020

Mitch Petit-FrereAs part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of the Family Promise network and individuals working to serve families experiencing homelessness to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These writers are true thought leaders, using their skills and expertise to develop and implement creative solutions that are changing the lives of parents and children in their communities. This post is from Mitchell Petit-Frere, Creative Content Manager at Family Promise National.

This article was originally published on Medium.


How can you quarantine at home when you don’t have a home?

Housing-insecure families are more vulnerable than ever

Last Thursday afternoon I really needed a snack. I was working from home and — as you all know — hunger strikes more often when your work station is a few seconds from the fridge.

So I headed downstairs to find something to eat, but when I stepped into the kitchen I found my mom zipping up her jacket.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

She told me she was headed to Target. We needed Clorox wipes and a bunch of other stuff. I politely told her to take her jacket off.

“Don’t go out. You have a higher chance of being seriously affected if you get sick. I’ll go to Target this weekend. Stay home.”

Stay home.

Suddenly, the act of remaining in your house is critical to maintaining good health. It can also be what shields you from serious harm. Unfortunately, staying at home isn’t an option for everyone.

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Family homelessness is an invisible crisis.

Did you know 2.5 million children will experience homelessness this year in the United States of America? Did you also know 1 in 16 kids will find themselves without a home before turning six?

Those are sobering stats, but very few people are cognizant of them.

Why is that? Well, family homelessness isn’t something that is easy to spot. When you think of homelessness, you probably picture a scruffy-looking guy stationed under an overpass with a cardboard sign asking for some extra cash.

But that’s not what family homelessness is.

Family homelessness is a dad getting injured on the job, which forces the mom to pick up an extra shift at work. But when that doesn’t help cover rent, an eviction notice forces the family to stay at a friend’s house until the dad recovers and finds work again.

Family homelessness is a mom fleeing an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her infant daughter. With no family or friends for support, she checks into a motel for shelter.

Family homelessness is a single dad moving to a new city for work with his two kids. But when his housing falls through and with affordable housing non-existent, he’s forced to tell his kids they’ll have to sleep in the car for a few nights.

Family homelessness is an unforeseen circumstance that leads to an unthinkable reality.

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There’s a great book we’re passing around at the Family Promise national office called ‘Tightrope: Americans Reach for Hope.’ It delves into the lives — and struggles — of left-behind pockets of the country.

Early on, the authors describe the lives of people in poverty as walking a tightrope. One misstep will lead to a crippling fall into a pit of struggle. On the other hand, those of us with more privileged circumstances have been awarded the opportunity to walk through life on a well-trodden path; some on a secure sidewalk; others on a private road.

Most families experiencing homelessness have fallen from a tightrope.

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There’s never a good time to experience homelessness, but right now is definitely the worst. As Claas Ehlers, the CEO of Family Promise, keenly pointed out: how do you quarantine at home when you don’t have a home?

The answer is: you can’t.

Luckily, Family Promise Affiliates around the country have kept their doors open while so many other organizations, businesses, schools and institutions have been forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic. This means that vulnerable families nationwide are receiving the support they need in order to remain safe during this crisis.

The sad reality is that it’s impossible for every family to survive a fall from their tightrope. But with Family Promise around, thousands will land in a safety net that will give them the support and momentum to launch back up out of the pit — usually onto more stable ground.


If you’re able, consider donating to Family Promise’s Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fundraiser.

Dial 211 to find more resources near you.
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