My family had nowhere to go – now I’m fighting for fair housing policies on Capitol Hill

March 28, 2019
by Maureen Bowling, RESULTS Advocate and Expert on Poverty, Lexington, KY

A little under four years ago, my children and I were facing homelessness. I was in an abusive relationship that was threatening my life. I had to get out.

I had been a stay-at-home mom for over a decade. When I chose to leave that relationship, I had no resources or housing to sustain my children and myself. I was left in a place where I needed to apply for Section 8 housing assistance in order to get my children and myself to a safe place and rebuild my life. Unfortunately, the waitlist was two years long – too long.

I was lucky. I had friends who invited me into their home to be a sort of live-in nanny for them. I was caring for five children and four pets, cleaning their home, cooking meals, and doing laundry. Meanwhile, I was going to school full-time. I had made that choice to propel my children and myself into a life of sustainable wellness that I didn’t think I could achieve without going to school.

I was fortunate that I had that family to turn to. They opened up their home to my children and me. But hundreds of thousands of Americans don’t have the same opportunity I had. They don’t have anywhere to go. They’re facing losing their children because they don’t have a place to live. And many are facing losing their lives if they choose to go back to abusive partners.

To have your own home is just one of those basic essential needs, like healthcare and food on the table. To not have that robs you a bit of your basic humanity. The people that we lived with offered us a home, but it wasn’t our home. It wasn’t our place of belonging.

After nine months of living with that family, I randomly received a packet of information in my mail for the One Parent Scholar House. It’s a division of Section 8, but with a shorter wait list than regular Section 8 housing. I applied for the program, which is for single parents going to school full-time, working part-time, and meeting certain grade requirements. I was accepted, and we moved there within a month and half.

Now my children and I live in our own apartment through this division of Section 8. My children love it because we can come home and we can be together. It’s so simple and so important, but without Section 8, we wouldn’t have that. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Now I’m doing well in school, I’m an active member with RESULTS, and I’m working to help other people have resources available to them when they face these draining, stressful situations.

I’m passionate about fighting for more funding for housing assistance. We need to provide additional vouchers so that women facing the issues I face, and many other hardworking Americans, have their basic needs met. If someone is in a dire situation like I was, they shouldn’t be instantly cast aside and left in a state of homelessness because of circumstances out of their control.

I’ve been in the thick of these types of situations, without options or hope. Now I’ve gone to Capitol Hill twice through RESULTS’ Fellowship program, and met personally with policymakers about this critical issue. The power that we are taught we have in influencing government is amazing. These experiences have compelled me to take this home, and influence my children to become little activists.

Maureen Bowling is a RESULTS Expert on Poverty and RESULTS Fellowship alum in Lexington, KY.

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