Several Fort Bend non-profits help in the fight against homelessness

By S. Barot
For The Star

Fort Bend Family Promise may be the most well-known non-profit that deals with homelessness, and the only one fully dedicated to it.

But there are many others that are helping in the fight against homelessness.

Area non-profits ensure the safety and security of homeless families. But some populations are often overlooked – women, teenagers and individuals, particularly seniors, who are just one paycheck away from being on the street.

The Department of Justice estimates that every year, over 1.7 million teens experience homelessness in the country. And Fort Bend County has seen its share of this jarring statistic.

Shannon Bloesch, executive director of nonprofit Parks Youth Ranch in Needville, said her 22-bed facility is typically full every night. Parks Youth Ranch is an emergency shelter that provides a stable environment with clothing, food, medical care and short-term shelter, to at-risk and homeless youth.

“The system has failed the kids who come to Parks Youth Ranch,” Bloesch said.

Bloesch said many of the children, who are aged 7 to 17, come from abusive or negligent environments, have been trafficked, or left their home or placement. Almost all of the children are in Child Protective Services custody.

Since many of them have experienced various traumas, Bloesch said it’s critical to get them emotionally stable with mentorship opportunities. Crisis management and mental stability are their main focus.

They do their best to help find the kids a foster home (in conjunction with government agencies) or assist with family reunification.

Seniors may not be completely homeless, but many live on a fixed-income —usually supplied by the government in social services programs. The U.S. Census Bureau reports 8.4 percent of the population in Fort Bend County live below the poverty level.

Catholic Charities Mamie George Community Center in Richmond provides a variety of services to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families.

Center Director Beth Zarate said the Community Center was placed in Richmond due to a study conducted by Rice University, which addressed a need for services for low-income seniors. To qualify for many of their services, individuals must meet a poverty guideline.

The newest program the Community Center is piloting is shared senior housing. The housing will be for single, widowed women who will be able to reduce their rent by half. Thus far, 12 seniors are interested in the pilot program.

Trini’s Corner Market – a self-select market, available to those who qualify at the Community Center, for twice a month up to six months. If applicable, a case manager is assigned to individuals who need financial resources for rent and utilities.

Women who suffer from domestic abuse are another major population affected by homelessness. The Housing and Urban Development Department categorizes this as Category 4 Homelessness – Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence.

“We have an array of services including an emergency shelter, which provides a roof over their head, food, and emergency clothing,” said Chief Program Officer Abeer Monem of the Fort Bend County Women’s Center. “Women fleeing from domestic abuse are also considered homeless. They have a home, but with an abuser present, what kind of a home is it?” The statistic Monem presented to The Star is staggering – the shelter sees close to 400 families a year.

But there is hope for women who choose to help take the services presented. Monem said the Women’s Center teach women basic life skills and self-esteem. An employment specialist assists with resumes, interviewing skills and provides job leads. This in turn, helps the women become more independent, self-sufficient and confident.

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