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Keeping Your Home Sweet Home: Housing After Emergency and Crisis Situations

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Preventative Housing Strategies for Emergency and Crisis Situations

A flood. A house fire. A tornado. A lost job. Layoffs. A lawsuit. Violence and abuse. A car accident. Divorce. A disgruntled landlord or vindictive roommates. Gentrification. War or civil unrest. Unexpected illness and overwhelming medical expenses. Aging and lack of elder care. Unexpected death of loved ones. And on and on and on. The list of possible emergency and crisis situations causing housing instability, displacement and homelessness is quite frankly exhausting. Should we take emergency housing seriously? Absolutely! Do we take emergency housing seriously? Unfortunately not! The rapidly-increasing catastrophe emerging around the US beckons for nationwide attention - a long-overdue discussion.

ProjectHOME and Our World in Data both report more than 500,000 homeless individuals or families residing within the United States of America. Note these statistics may not account for unreported cases, cases of citizens located outside the US, cases of the missing, cases of severe displacement and many cases due to violence, physical disability or mental illness. Homelessness has steadily increased since 2007 around the country. Urban areas poignantly perceive and experience the impact of housing instability, displacement and homelessness in local public areas, as anticipated employment needs in especially over-populated urban settings remain unsatisfied.


One hopes in a country of abundance as the USA, homelessness would be a myth. Home, after all, is where the heart is. However, very real housing problems stemming from emergency and crisis situations persists nationwide. How is the US government currently combatting housing instability, displacement and homelessness? Several government agencies are diligently collaborating to improve emergency housing needs.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides free or low-income housing for individuals and families who qualify, especially individuals and families facing emergency and crisis situations. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ensures our soldiers, veterans and their families are fully cared for upon completion of military services. The Department of Labor (DOL) encourages housing opportunities in conjunction with individuals’ employment efforts. Individuals receive financial assistance and marketable skills for retaining employment to cover applicable housing costs. Likewise the Department of Education (DOE) aims for college students and employees to achieve necessary education levels for quality jobs, allowing financial assistance for housing during educational programs. The Department of Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of Agriculture Rural Development (ARD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Services (FEMA) distributes regular financial assistance and cost relief for individuals and families who qualify before or after emergency and crisis situations. While government efforts aim to eradicate housing instability, displacement and homelessness, emergency and crisis situations are still very unpredictable and, therefore, uncontrollable and unpreventable.

Considering the US government's inability to mitigate citizens’ housing issues from emergency and crisis situations, how much more should each individual citizen prepare to mitigate such issues for his- or herself?! Applying effective housing strategies in preparation to escape the pangs of emergency and crisis situations is imperative for individuals and their families. While there are several infamous and common housing options to navigate emergency and crisis situations (i.e., public housing, shelters, hotels, etc.), a few effective, uncommon and preventative strategies are indicated below.

One particular and important preventative strategy consists of prearranged housing plans. Also called family emergency plans, individuals simply contact a stable relative, friend or employer who owns a house or property (i.e., a cabin or underground bunker) outside the vicinity to plan and agree on future housing arrangements. In the event of a regional natural disaster, local arrangements may become invalid. Establish arrangements in written agreement before emergency and crisis situations unfold, enforcing applicable terms and conditions are fully satisfied. Detail terms as much as possible, including contingent planning as well. Similar terms are also applied within living wills, so consider the services of an attorney if necessary. Individuals with children should especially consider pre-arrangements for child safety purposes, including temporary foster care or adoption. If pre-arrangements do not include immediate repayment for housing services rendered by your relative, friend or employer, consider offering to complete house chores, errands or free labor in exchange for housing. Again, be certain to detail in writing all terms for housing chores, errands, labor or other services bartered.

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Prepaying for future housing needs in the event of emergency and crisis situations is a highly-effective preventative strategy. Most housing prepayment plans require a written agreement to reiterate funds submitted for future use are not misused or misallocated. Agreements prescribe terms for future housing over time, while protecting funds presubmitted to cover housing costs. Prepayment plans may either collect a lump sum payment, receive accrued payments over time or automatically transfer funds allocated to a specific bank account to cover future housing costs.

Another preventative housing strategy to combat emergency and crisis situations includes retaining additional or multiple forms of income. Income planning helps individuals manage their time and resources in accordance with income goals. Set financial goals you plan to achieve. Include within your income planning funds necessary to maintain living standards in the event a primary form of income terminates unexpectedly. For example, a construction worker may consider snow plowing during the winter months when construction opportunities are minimal. In another example, teachers may babysit or tutor during summer months off from school. Older teenage children can also contribute (even by attending college) in the event a form of family income is lost. Increased financial and housing assistance is offered to parents of foster children. While increasing current income levels, saving funds in preparation for emergency and crisis situations is adjacently satisfied. Income plans vary from person to person, as personal aptitude drives income potential.

As a final housing preventative strategy, there are several forms of insurance policies and financial remunerations designed to assist in preparation for emergency and crisis situations. Flood insurance, renters insurance, security deposits, property insurance, natural disaster insurance, unemployment insurance, long-term disability insurance, cobra insurance, alimony, palimony, child support, auto insurance, worker's compensation, health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, life insurance, etc. are regulated by either federal/state/public agencies for free or serviced by private companies for premiums. Research each type of insurance thoroughly when planning housing preparations for emergency and crisis situations. Insurance policies prescribe future financial assistance or cost relief for potential emergency and crisis situations. Policy terms are both generic and specific to the needs and requirements of policy holders (businesses or individuals). Popular private insurance providers such as GEICO, Progressive, Aflac, BlueCross BlueShield, Prudential, StateFarm, Farmers, Nationwide, NY Life, AIG, Principal, Travelers, Allstate, etc. are available in most States countrywide.

Overall, individuals and their families are responsible for completely developing effective housing strategies to deal with emergency and crisis situations, which can occur any time. Prearranged housing plans, prepaid housing plans, income planning and insurance policies are four effective, uncommon preventative methods of preparing for such circumstances. While government services are also available to those in need, early preparation via housing strategies effectively deter individuals and their families from emergency and crisis situations leading towards housing instability, displacement or homelessness.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 S T Guy

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