Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
A shelter for homeless single women without children in Lee County, Florida
Women are homeless for reasons most of us will never experience. Job loss, death of a spouse or partner, physical and mental health issues, domestic violence and economic constraints all contribute to losing a home. Florida is Mecca to those without a place to live.
Lee County has a number of shelters where women with children can find refuge. Single women without children have no place to go, a reality Angel Wings House is working hard to change. A temporary bed—if one is available—Is for a maximum of 30 days.
Until Angel Wings House opened its doors, there was not one single shelter in Lee County for these women. We opened Angel Wings to provide temporary transitional housing that lifts these women up and helps them regain their independence. Today we have one home, but our dream is two, then ten…until all of them have a roof over their head. The annual cost of supporting a home is $40,000.
Every woman is different and everyone has a story to tell.
What It Means to Be Homeless
I cannot tell you what it feels like to be homeless. I will never know the fear of having no place to sleep, no job, food or even the most basic of human needs—a bathroom.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) defines being without a home as someone who lives on the street, or in an abandoned building, or in any place not meant for human habitation – or someone who has no regular place to live.
In Florida’s tropical climate, this also means living in the woods. Statistics are hard to verify and the numbers vary depending on the source. As of January 2018, Florida had an estimated 31,000 people homeless on any given day.
Getting Back on Your Feet
Others are “sheltered” but still homeless because they stay in transitional accommodation until they find stable permanent housing. Statistics for homeless women are harder to verify.
Those who manage to get back on their feet do not make enough money to rent a place to live and there is a huge shortage of available housing. Renting requires a first and last month payment and a security deposit.
Florida has roughly 32 affordable and available rental units for every 100 households with incomes of 0-30 percent of the AMI (area median income), a deficit of 309,971 units. The odds are not in their favor.
Homelessness happens. It is a lonely road with feelings of low self-esteem, abandonment fear and hopelessness.
Beyond the economic costs of homelessness, there are lives at risk. The struggle for daily survival is a challenge. Regular meals, health care resources, employment assistance and community connections are limited. The ability to climb out of their situation is directly proportional to the limited resources available.
Confronting homelessness is not easy. We know it is there, but you and I are not homeless. We believe we know what being without a place to live means, but few of us know how it feels. It is more than we have the ability to comprehend because we have not walked a mile in those shoes.
The easy response is to look away; the harder action is to get involved.
The Human Side of Homelessness
Two years ago, a small but mighty group of women decided to get involved and founded Angel Wings House. Seeing a great need and no immediate solution, they made it their mission to create a safe harbor for this forgotten demographic.
The dream of Angel Wings is to transition middle-aged women without children from homeless to becoming employed and living independently. Residency includes collaborating with existing agencies, allowing them to re-enter the job market, save money, and apply for support services that require an address.
Angel Wings: A Transitional Home
Angel Wings House literally relies on the kindness of strangers; volunteers support our mission with their time, talent, and contributions to provide a safe and empowering place for women to get back on their feet. Our women are in residence for six months, in a home with a communal living model. Each woman contributes to her housing while working and saving to live independently.
Applicants do not have substance abuse or mental health issues, and may not have a criminal record. These are women who experienced an unfortunate series of events and setbacks that left them homeless and unemployed. If you live locally, Angel Wings asks for and welcomes your support and involvement. Donations are gratefully accepted and those that make an immediate difference are:
- Gift Cards: Publix, Walgreens, Aldi, and CVS
- Transportation Volunteers
- Gently used furniture and housewares
- Second chance clothing and shoes
- Mentoring and job coaching
- Support our Leap Year Fundraiser on February 29th – dinner and dancing!
Your donations change lives by helping women recover their self-worth, find purpose and value, and realize their dream of living on their own.
The Fight Against Homelessness
Together we are raising awareness for the fight against homelessness. Angel Wings House is proof we are succeeding!
It is an honor to serve on the board of this innovative and compassionate organization. As one of the residents said to me recently, “I used to be you.”
There but for Grace…
Angel Wings is a 501© (3) not-for-profit corporation. Your contributions are tax deductible.