The negative impact of coronavirus on the North Texas economy is no secret, nor are the thousands of people now jobless as a result. But what’s less easy to see are the countless families, already living on the margins, who are now facing homelessness as a result of the economic turmoil.
“I don’t want to say that it gets me down but it just does, everything just stopped, at a standstill,” Patrick Buckner, who lives at the Family Gateway Shelter in Dallas said.
Buckner has been at the shelter since February and the emergence of COVID-19 has made it increasingly difficult to find a job and an apartment that will take him. Also, child care for his 12-year-old daughter, with school’s currently shuttered, has been a challenge.
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“There are families calling right now that were okay yesterday but aren’t today, I expect it to get much worse,” Ellen Magnis, Family Gateway’s Executive Director said.
Magnis said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp rise in the number of families needing assistance. With the exception of their overnight rooms, intended for families with emergency needs, Family Gateway’s downtown shelter is full. To fill the void, Family Gateway pays to put families up in area hotels.
“We typically at this time of year might have three to five families in hotels, last night we had 23 families in hotels,” Magnis said.
The rise in demand and expenses comes at a time when non-profits have increasingly less money to work with due to the economic downturn. But Magnis remains optimistic, in part because of people like Patrick Buckner and his daughter, who not long after being interviewed were approved for an apartment that will be subsidized by Family Gateway.
“Those families who are better off who still have a lot of stability need to know that there are families just like there’s who have already become destabilized or will become destabilized as we move further into this crisis,” Magnis said.