When you're in a tough financial position and looking for affordable housing to prevent your family from becoming homeless then you need to know where to find the right kind of housing assistance.
Because everyone’s circumstances are different, there are different types of housing services available across the nation to help you with access to emergency shelter, temporary and permanent housing, and rent assistance.
To help you with the necessary housing resources, we’ve created a complete housing guide for individuals and families with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and those looking to prevent or address homelessness.
Let’s start by looking at the options for housing along with the qualifying criteria so you know which services are available and who to contact when you’re facing a housing crisis.
Housing Services Provided by the HUD
All housing services and resources such as rent assistance are governed by the HUD or Department of Housing and Urban Development. There are 3 types of programs the HUD offers to assist qualifying households with housing:
In privately owned and subsidized housing, the government pays landlords a set fee to provide affordable rent to low-income families.
Housing for Families with Disabilities
If you are living with a disability or caring for children or family members with disabilities, you may qualify for housing services including Public Housing, Section 8, and Rent Assistance programs.
The HUD offers different types of federal and state programs that focus on finding a place for you to rent that may include assistance with a housing voucher or public housing services.
There are also programs that focus on modifying your current home to make it more accessible to relatives with disabilities.
The Assisted Living Conversion Program (ALCP) was founded by the HUDto provide housing modifications for both seniors and those with disabilities.
The purpose of this program is to help both older adults and those with disabilities to maintain their independence and their homes for much longer which minimizes the need to rely on state housing.
There are different modifications that are performed based on the nature of the disability or physical limitation. Changes can range from altering doorknobs to pull handles, adding handrails, or the installation of a wheelchair ramp.
How to Get a Free Home Modification?
If you or a family member living in your household has suffered an injury causing permanent disability or as a senior, you need to improve the safety of your home, but you can’t afford to, you can apply for a housing improvement grant. One of the most common is the Federal Disability Grant which is meant to cover the costs of making alterations to your home to make it more wheelchair friendly or to simply provide access to more supports so you can continue to live safely and comfortably in your home.
The Home Accessibility and Repair Program provides qualifying low income homeowners with a grant to upgrade the home without having to pay the money back. The Accessibility Program is offered through the HUD in your state, including financing departments and local finance agencies.
There are also private disability programs offered through organizations such as Rebuilding Together and Self-sufficiency grants.
Applying for a Home Improvement Grant?
The application for a home improvement grant is open to homeowners who earn a low income. Program applications can be found online (you can visit the HUD website or the Home Accessibility and Repair Program in which documents such as your social security, income, and medical or clinical proof of disability are required. You would also need to attach a letter of motivation as to why you should be considered and how the funds will be used.
Housing for Seniors
Seniors have the option to choose between 3 HUD housing programs including Section 8, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and Section 202 Supportive Housing Services.
Adults over the age of 62 with a low income may qualify for Section 202. It is a similar program to Section 8 but only offered to seniors who pay 30% of their income towards their rent.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit
This is a property developer and government deal where the developer determines the number of units for low-income renting and accepts the amount suggested by the HUD for monthly rent. Once accepted, the developer is eligible for tax credits.
Who to Contact for Senior Housing?
To find out about affordable senior housing, you can contact the HUD for assistance in your area. You can also contact Area Agency on Aging which has a nationwide network of more than 600 agencies specializing in resources for older adults.
Housing for Veterans
For veterans, there are several federal government programs that help with safe and comfortable housing. These programs include the provision of grants through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For surviving spouses and veterans, these grants or loans assist with funds to modify homes for those with disabilities or the provision of a VA loan to afford to buy a house.
For senior veterans, the federal government also makes programs available for assisted living and nursing homes.
Housing Solutions for Homelessness
When you can’t afford your rent or you are evicted from your home, you could find yourself homeless. While many people and families have struggled with homelessness across the country, it is important to realize that you can access emergency housing or shelters that are available in your region. It is not an easy journey and for many, simply trying to reach support services or rent assistance is a challenge in itself but it is all about trying. The key to finding the right kind of help is to know who to speak to and to learn which resources are available to address your unique circumstances.
Is Homelessness a Problem?
The problem with low cost or affordable housing is the rising gap between income and affordable rent or homeownership. The current shortage of affordable housing units has made it harder for people to secure their rent which places them at risk of losing the roof over their heads. When people cannot afford their homes and are faced with few housing options, it places them at risk of homelessness.
Recent studies in the housing sector have also shown that most people who are currently homeless are single adults.
In the US, around half a million adults and families experience homelessness on a given night. In 2020, more than 580 000 adults including families with children, were homeless. The highest rates of homelessness were recorded in New York followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco. The rising number of people who find themselves on the streets is of concern but with limited housing available and a lack of affordability, where do you go and who do you speak to if you and your family don’t have a home to go to?
How to Find Shelter Services in Your Area?
Whether you are at risk or you are currently homeless, you can reach out to a community-based shelter or you can contact your local church for assistance with recommended shelters in your region.
There are two nationwide services or call centers you can contact to assist with potential and current homelessness. If you can’t get assistance from a local shelter or church, you can call the following organizations for help:
The Continuum of Care (COC)
The COC offers a program for all who are homeless or who need help with local housing services but who exactly is the COC and how can they help you?
“The COC is a local planning agency that is responsible for the coordination of housing services for both individuals and families who find themselves homeless or at risk of being homeless. The purpose of the COC is to provide representation for communities across the nation who need of housing and funding for housing assistance.”
This means that it is a community initiative to help people move into secure housing, prevent the return to homelessness, and to improve the lives of individuals and families with emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing.
The Continuum of Care is governed by the HUD or US Department of Urban Housing and Development with the purpose of providing specialized services for the homeless based on their range of needs.
If you are at risk of homelessness, you can contact the COC to speak to a housing agent for help and to learn of your options for either temporary or permanent housing in your city or state.
Alternatively, you can contact the national housing hotline at 211 to speak to an experienced agent. Agents will help with food and access to social services, including housing resources.
Should you struggle to find a community program for help, you can contact the HUD, or you can reach out to a non-profit organization that specializes in community or individual aid.
If You Live in Public or Affordable Housing, Speak to a Professional Agent
Don’t wait until you are evicted or end up on the street before you contact a housing agency or social service. Most agencies are able to provide support to maintain your current housing, so you don’t end up homeless. This includes negotiations with landlords and access to rent assistance until you can find a more permanent solution.
What About Accessing a Shelter?
Some see shelters as a last resort but for many individuals and families, it has made a tremendous difference in their lives.
If you have to access a shelter, service providers will ask a series of questions about your current mental and physical health. They will assess your employment, whether you have a criminal history and the number of children that you have. The purpose is to match you to the best possible social and housing services, so you don’t have to remain at a shelter. For some individuals, these assessments also provide access to long-term housing and rentals to prevent long-term shelter stays.
Finding the Right Housing for Your Needs
There are many federal government programs available to help you with affordable housing, grants, and access to housing resources in your area.
To determine which type of housing is best for you and your family, it is important to compare the pros and cons of each type of residence and program available to you. Learn of the qualifying criteria and think about what you need to live safely, comfortably, and independently.
For seniors and veterans, specialized housing programs are available while affordable housing such as Section 8 can be accessed by all individuals and families on a low income. There are also second chance homes to rent providing affordability in decent apartments for those with bad credit or a former eviction.