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Life on the Edge

Written by: Heather Lowe -

Families living in motels are in a uniquely precarious position. With a roof over their head (even a temporary one), they are not considered to be homeless by HUD standards and therefore don’t qualify for many services. However, we know that these families often face a life of instability and peril that can include the same kinds of trauma faced by families experiencing other types of homelessness.

COVID has laid bare so many inequities in our society and this is especially true for families in this situation. Eviction moratoriums and rental assistance programs have been in the news (and in our blog) since early this year, but motel residents do not qualify for these programs. Eviction from a motel for non-payment is just as devastating as eviction from an apartment or rental home, but without a lease or established tenancy, these families are not protected under the most recent moratorium issued by the CDC. Additionally, while CARES Act funding has flowed into our community to seed rental assistance programs at a variety of agencies, aid is not available to these families because they are not considered to be renters under program guidelines.

These families especially struggle with remote learning even as school districts have scrambled to make technology (tablets, hot spots, etc.) available to families in need. Internet providers have launched a variety of free and reduced price programs in response to COVID-19, but when some families in motels tried to get connected in Tarrant County, they were rejected by internet providers since the address that they provided was a commercial address, rather than residential. They were only able to get service after their district’s homeless liaison negotiated an agreement on their behalf. Some properties routinely provide wi-fi to their guests as an amenity, but the cost is often outside of the range of what families can afford.

The Texas House of Representatives recently released a Request for Information on a variety of issues, including a list of charges related to Public Education. The Coalition for Homeless Children used this opportunity to advocate for these families and submitted a document outlining the barriers to an equitable education faced by these students. We encourage you to contact your representatives to ask them to consider these families and their unique needs in the upcoming session.