One of the most daunting challenges facing the single mother in today’s economy is finding or keeping safe, affordable housing for her family. If you anticipate problems or are currently experiencing them in these difficult times, take heart in the fact that there is plenty of help out there for you (see resource links below).
Note, if you are looking for information about mortgages and not housing assistance, your best bet is to read our mortgage guide for moms.
No matter which programs or agencies you choose to turn to for help, there are a few important things that will help you stand out from the crowd and become more likely to receive the help you seek:
Keep a file folder (or several) with important information organized, such as birth certificates for you and your children, social security number, work history and resume, past addresses for 5 or more years, etc. If you’ve owned a home in the past, include information like the mortgage company you made payments to, a record of payments, and the date of sale. If you’ve rented, include similar data. Having information like this on hand makes a good impression and tells people that you pay attention to the business of maintaining and keeping a home. Much of this information can be generated from the source itself, without your having to piece it together from bank statements or cancelled checks—just get in touch with the companies or rental agencies you did business with and request a copy of your account history.
If you’ve never been involved in this activity (for instance, if an ex-husband or boyfriend always handled these matters), or if you do not have an exemplary record in this regard, be truthful. Gather as much information as you can, and try to account for missing dates. If you can do so sincerely, try to explain in writing why you had a problem in the past, and what has changed in your life that makes you think you will be more successful in the future.
Showing an agency or government organization that you have a handle on your finances (even if they’re strained) will go a long way toward strengthening your case and chances for success. Create a budget (it doesn’t have to be fancy, computerized, or anything else—simple income and outflow will do) and stick to it. It’s much better to deal realistically with what your needs are than to fudge numbers and find in the future that you can’t make it work.
If you feel like your budget is too tight, or won’t work at all, what are your plans for improving your situation? Are you thinking about extra education or training to get a better job? Do you feel that if you can obtain housing for a certain cost, your budget situation will improve? Write out how you are planning your future so you can respond to any program or agency requests that probe how you expect to maintain your family on a given income. You might find that ancillary programs can help, if staff are made aware of how you intend to proceed (grants for education or childcare might be available from the same agencies you’re contacting for housing assistance).
Wherever possible, eliminate distractions from your quest for affordable housing. If you’re having problems that seem to keep drawing you away from your primary goals, do whatever you can to rid yourself of them. Substance abuse, unpaid bills, ex-husbands or boyfriends who are problematic—any of these things can derail your efforts simply because they are taking energy away from the important task of finding or keeping quality, safe housing for yourself and your children.
In addition, they can sabotage your efforts by becoming known to agencies or organizations that were prepared to work with you. A typical example is major credit card debt—if you don’t disclose it to an agency considering you as a client, it’s possible they will begin to question other information you supplied. It’s better to confront these issues and have an explanation of how you’re dealing with them, in case they should come up during routine interviews or questionnaires. And again, as with making your plans for the future known, the agency you’re consulting may have other coordinating resources right at their fingertips that can help.
Keep It Simple
Many people believe they have to present an almost accountant-like record of their financial history to succeed in an application to a government agency or other housing organization. This is not true—the simpler the information, the more effective it is–as long as it’s honest. A neat hand-written budget sheet, a one or two-page letter of introduction outlining your needs and plans, and a pleasant, helpful attitude will score all the “points” you need to present yourself in the best light for the type of assistance you seek. Oftentimes it might seem as if the information you compiled is not relevant, such as when you fill out an application online or otherwise never seem to reach a real person. However, the preparation itself will help you focus on your goal and complete these applications with less stress. And there’s always a chance that a face-to-face meeting will occur. In fact, you should always attempt to see a program representative in person so that you have a chance to make a good impression.
So take a look at the links below, choose some that look promising, and get started on your hunt for assistance in finding housing!
Don’t Underestimate Local Resources
In addition to the national or federally-sponsored programs given below, there are very likely many organizations and programs unique to your state, region or city. Don’t underestimate these “small” programs—just like scholarship opportunities, they are often under-used because people don’t know about them.
One good way to find out what’s available is to read your local paper. Sometimes programs are even broken down by neighborhood, so check out the free local newspaper also (usually available in grocery stores or convenience stores in your neighborhood).
Search thoroughly for articles, ads or announcements that relate to housing, and note the organization named. Then contact them and ask if there is a rental component to their programs. If not, ask if they know of any local programs that help with housing for single mothers. Neighborhood activists are usually a tight bunch, and are well aware of anybody working to improve the city’s housing options.
Another way to find out about local programs is to attend neighborhood meetings. If programs are available and seeking more visibility, they are sure to send a representative to these gatherings to make an announcement. People who regularly attend will be aware of such programs, as well, so don’t be shy—ask the person who runs the meeting if they are aware of any rental assistance programs in the area.
Links to housing resources for single mothers:
The resource descriptions and links below are grouped roughly into these categories:
- Well-known, long established federal programs
- Faith based (with a religious component, although all serve any client)
- Other programs
What they all have in common is that they are organized at a national level (although not all have an equal presence in every state), and that at least part of their focus is helping people find housing on either a permanent or emergency basis, or both. Many offer related services as well, such as life skills, education and training, child-care, nutrition programs, clothing, and so on.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The housing choice voucher program (more commonly known as Section 8 housing) is the major federal government program for helping low-income families afford decent private market housing. The big advantage of this program is that participants are allowed to find their own housing of any type (such as single-family, townhouse or apartment), as long as the landlord or managing agency is willing to participate in the program, and the property meets program requirements.
To find more information about the voucher program (Section 8), see the link below.
HUD programs are administered locally by Public Housing Agencies (in other words, you’ll deal with the PHA, not HUD, in your own city or locality). The Information by State link below will get you closer to the actual office you’ll need to contact to inquire about this type of assistance in your area.
• Local HUD Information by State
• Homeownership Vouchers
An overview of assistance available from HUD can be found at this link, the “Renter’s Kit”:
USDA – Rural Development / Housing & Community Facilities Programs (HCFP)
The Housing and Community Facilities Programs offers housing assistance to rural Americans, both homeowners and renters. Their programs include Single-Family Housing (for people who want to buy or need to improve a rural home), Multi-Family Housing (grants to property owners who intend to rent or improve rental property), and Community Facilities (such as child-care centers).
To find a Service Center in your area (by State), follow this link:
If you just want to explore this agency and its housing programs, click here:
Housing Finance Agencies
Housing Finance Agencies offer a wide range of support and assistance to families in search of affordable housing. The following link allows you to choose your state and zero in on the website of the agency closest to you:
Bridge of Hope
Bridge of Hope is a faith-based effort that brings together professional staff and trained church-based mentoring groups to empower homeless and at-risk single mothers to attain permanent housing, financial self-sufficiency, friendship and growth. If you are in this category, find out if there is a group near you at:
If not (there are currently only 9 states listed), and you are committed to finding help through your church, contact the national organization about starting the program in your area:
Bridge of Hope National
311 National Road, Exton, PA 19341
Phone: 1-610-280-0280 Toll-free: 1-866-670-HOPE
Salvation Army USA
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
To find the chapter nearest to you, enter your zip code in the Locations heading at the top of the page found here:
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Charities agencies serve people of all faiths. They provide a wide range of services, including services for single moms and children: housing, emergency services, health care, child care, adoption, counseling, financial assistance, food pantries, and other critical services.
Some Charities have their own websites:
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice – FL
Catholic Charities Oklahoma
Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, NC
Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, NC
Catholic Charities of Los Angeles – CA
Catholic Charities Health and Human Services – OH
Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Denver – CO, from the left side drop down menu select services
2-1-1 Connecting People in Need with Community Services
2-1-1 is a community services help line. If you have an immediate housing problem, or simply don’t know where to turn for help with childcare, expenses, addiction, aging parents…this is the place to call. Services are provided by United Way Worldwide and the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems (AIRS).
The Nurturing Network (TNN)
The Nurturing Network is an international charitable organization that responds to the immediate and comprehensive needs of a woman facing the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. This is a pro-life organization dedicated to seeing a woman through all aspects of this difficult time.
Need Help? www.nurturingnetwork.org/needhelp.html
CoAbode—Single Mothers House Sharing
This matchmaking service offers single mothers the opportunity to find housemates who will pool resources to cut the cost of housing, food, supplies and childcare.