At many homeless shelters and at illegal 'tent cities' your belongings are only safe if you or someone you trust can watch them for you. If you have ever been illegally evicted (or otherwise forced out illegally) you know that any belongings you don't have on your person or watched by a friend can end up destroyed.
In addition, in many homeless shelters any belongings you don't take with you every morning when you are required to leave become inaccessible until that evening when you are allowed back in. This can include eyeglasses or prescriptions you forgot about and many other things. For this reason, many people who are in shelters with spouses or family will leave their (large and heavy) bags with one family member while looking for work or shelter.
In the City of Buffalo, in order to get access to the department of emergency housing (the people who help people get into shelters from the street AND help people get from the shelters into stable housing) people have to go through a completely reasonable security checkpoint, which gives people a very hard time with large bags and has trouble with stuff you might carry if you've lost your house and are carrying all belongings [Grandma's steak knife set!]
AT THE SAME TIME, in order to get help, the department of emergency housing requires that everyone in a family who seeks help over the age of 18 physically show up at the office or no help will be given at all. (The law only says they are allowed to set requirements to get housing, this all adults in person or we don't help thing was decided by their specific department.) The department of emergency housing deals with people made homeless by many means, including victims of fires and natural disasters...not just people who are poor. Literally anyone could have to deal with this situation.
People in hospitals (but being discharged later in the day), the working homeless, people who can't afford downtown parking, caregiver parents with kids in tow and people who would otherwise just be watching the family's remaining belongings have all been screwed over by these policies when sending a spouse or advocate to get help only to be told they cannot get help, regardless of why the other adults cannot appear at that precise moment. Note that often these people seeking help are just starting a journey, with many steps with the county before they are done.
WE SHOULD WANT families to be stable,
WE SHOULD WANT employees at the security checkpoint to be able to search purses and pockets not suitcases full of people's undies and old pictures.
WE SHOULD WANT people who are in a housing emergency to get emergency help from the department of emergency housing.
FOR THAT REASON, we ask that Erie County establish a set of rules for seeking help from this department that make sense. VERY FEW PEOPLE, if anyone ever, sought housing in a homeless shelter for the glamour and glitz... There is no reason (and, again, the relevant statute makes no such claim) for every adult in a family to have to be there during business hours at the same time.
WE ASK THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY HOUSING END THIS SILLY AND DESTRUCTIVE POLICY NOW. In a family with Mom, Dad and three kids, you can do the housing intake with Mom while Dad watches the kids and then see Mom later. You can see Bob, whose partner is due out of the hospital at 4pm, and then see Bob's partner later. (You can even call the hospital which might be run by the county and see Bob's partner exists!) You can talk to Cynthia while George is in the car keeping it from getting towed.
HELP WITH THE EMERGENCY FIRST (the representative of the family still has to prove there is an emergency!) AND THEN WORRY THAT MAYBE YOU MIGHT HELP AN EXTRA PERSON LATER.
When you realize many of these referrals are to shelters working with the county or involve families who already have documentation as a family on file, it becomes clear that this policy is very silly.
PEOPLE IN HOUSING EMERGENCIES ALREADY HAVE HOUSING EMERGENCIES. THERE IS NO REASON TO ALSO MAKE THEM TRANSPORTATION, CHILDCARE, etc. EMERGENCIES. They can require documents, marriage certificates, hospital bills, etc., but requiring every physical body to be there is a waste of taxpayer dollars and sometimes just cruel.
Other counties don't have this policy. Please tell Erie County to adopt a reasonable policy in line with other places.