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Family Promise Blog


When a family is displaced from their home, it can take a toll on many facets of their lives including financial, social, and on their physical and mental health. But one aspect that can often go overlooked is the strain it can put on the spouses or adult partners in that relationship.

Because money and other financial matters are the most common cause of conflict among couples, it only makes sense that when enduring the financial hardship of experiencing homelessness, a couple is even more prone to argue. One partner may not feel that the other is pulling their financial or emotional weight, and this can lead to bitterness and resentment. Other stressors can include living in cramped or group quarters or having to adhere to shelter or social services rules and restrictions.

When there is a shift or loss of control over the typical roles and routines that normally allow partner relationships to thrive, feelings of inadequacy can take root within either person. I feel humiliated that we’re in this situation. Have I let my partner down by allowing things to get this far? Why haven’t I figured out how to get us out of this situation? If a person feels emotionally distant from their partner in addition to already feeling separated from others due to their circumstances, it can negatively affect their well-being.

In the most extreme cases, the strain can even lead to abuse between partners. For example, in Los Angeles, a city with one of the highest displaced populations in the country, 34% of 18-24 year-olds experiencing homelessness have experienced some form of Intimate Partner Violence, which can be physical, sexual, or psychological.

A strained relationship naturally impacts the entire family. When two parents are going through a difficult patch, it not only affects them, but the children that rely on them, and increases their burden. But if parents are mindful of looming relationship stressors and are committed to managing them, they are taking the first important steps to limiting the damage they cause.

When experiencing homelessness, it’s all the more crucial for partners to remain supportive of one another. This can include the simple practice of placing the good of one’s partner or the relationship above one’s own personal needs.

It can mean reaching out to others for care and encouragement and enlisting the help of organizations like Family Promise. While many programs separate male and female partners for both privacy and safety reasons, Family Promise is committed to keeping families together when they are unsheltered. Something as simple as a father being able to stay with his family and kiss his wife and daughters goodnight can help reduce the stress of an already daunting experience. These things can provide both members of the relationship a much-needed source of support, and remind them they have someone in their corner.

Having (and being) a reliable and supportive partner can help prevent negative feelings and reactions from occurring, so it’s important for both partners to remember that they’re in it together! And, in the very best of cases, it can strengthen the relationship immeasurably. This will help to stay focused on combining their energies into finding housing and taking the steps to secure a better future for themselves and their families.

[1] Intimate Partner Violence Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness, Homelessness Policy Research Institute

Photo Credit: Netflix

The face of homelessness can often look different than we may think. At Family Promise, we’re familiar with the prejudice and opposition these families can face and know that homelessness looks situationally different from person-to-person. Enter ‘Maid’, the recent Netflix series that shines a light on the struggle of a young woman who experiences sudden homelessness after fleeing a threatening situation at home with her child’s father.

In this gripping TV adaption of the real-life memoir by Stephanie Land, a young mother (Alex) leaves her daughter’s volatile father in the middle of the night with no job, no transferrable ‘special skills’, and only $18 to her name. As the series follows her daily battle to scrape together enough money for food, housing, and safety for her and her little daughter, she must navigate a minefield of hurdles – from frustrating social services policies to dealing with her eccentric and imbalanced mother.

A profound moment in the series comes during Alex’s initial interaction with a social worker as she tries to get a grant for child care so she can interview for jobs. Instead, she is told that she needs to already have a job in order to get a grant for child care. To be eligible for subsidized housing, she must again present pay stubs. She curses and questions these policies, highlighting some of the systemic holes that may create potential barriers for those seeking the first steps to self-reliance. Alex laments, “Why offer Section 8 if it’s a mythical unicorn that nobody ever gets?” As Alex seeks rental assistance through TBRA (Tenant-Based Rental Assistance), she is seen desperately trying to convince landlord after landlord to accept the vouchers.

Photo Credit: Netflix

“I describe it as walking on a tightrope over a floor that is constantly dropping out from underneath.” - Stephanie Land

The series follows her through shelters and temporary housing to Value Maids – a service run by a feisty character named Yolanda. Through her back-breaking work as a maid, Alex has a lens into the lives of multiple families and relationships. From a high-maintenance homeowner named Regina (who ends up being much more than she first appears) to ‘the love house’ where she witnesses firsthand a husband’s loving and undying devotion to his terminal wife.

Alex’s own life story was complicated with an eccentric, unreliable, and bipolar mother, and an estranged father. These characters’ own faults and shortcomings beg the question about learned behavior and generational poverty which Alex so desperately wants to break free from.

The series makes many viewers aware of the plight of having zero financial resources, a lack of reliable child care, housing, transportation, and a reliable family support system. It also exposes a fragile social safety net, which is often full of holes.

Photos Credit: Netflix

But if Maid sounds painfully bleak, it’s not. Despite a deck stacked against her, there are defining moments of joy, awareness, strength, and small victories couched by unexpected acts of kindness and support. These, along with Alex’s unflinching resolve, propel her to break through and break out – reminding us that the cycle can be broken, and that we can each help mitigate another’s struggle along that path. Sometimes the simple act of watching or reading someone else’s story can open our eyes and broaden our understanding.

To read the real-life memoir that inspired the Netflix series, ‘Maid’ – check out Stephanie Land’s book, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.

Author Photos Credit: Amazon

Family Promise- February 2022 Newsletter Written by Jeff Corby, Americhoice Federal Credit Union

The story of Phil and his shadow is one of hope and reflection. If he sees his shadow, then there is six more weeks of winter. If not, then spring is coming. Either way, change is coming. The idea of a longer winter means that there is more time to prepare for what lies ahead. No matter what happens, the idea of spring means change, which brings with it something new or different. A great way to change some of our old habits is to create new goals for ourselves.

Goals allow us a chance to be prepared for the often-quick changes that are looming in our future. At Family Promise, we focus our efforts on the future. Some families find themselves in hardship for a variety of reasons. Plenty of people who aren’t living in poverty also make financial mistakes along the way. We all have more we can learn. Regardless of why a financial hardship exists, Family Promise can work with you to help guide you to a brighter financial future.

Check 1,2,3 takes our families through basic financial literacy skills. We work with banking experts to align our families’ goals with their behaviors to successfully achieve fiscal literacy and health. If you’re also looking to improve your financial habits, here are some tips and tricks to get started:

Analyze your financial situation.

One very important goal that can help prepare you for the future is to have good savings habits. In order to develop a great saving strategy, first take a look at what you are spending and saving right now. Start with short-term goals and work your way into longer-term goals. As with anything, you cannot figure out where you are going if you don’t know where you are starting.

Create a budget.

A great tool that can help you determine what you are spending versus saving is to create a budget. A budget is a simple way that you can get a snapshot of all your current spending and saving habits. First, start with your income or any money that you having coming in. Does it come to you all at once, or does it come in installments like a paycheck from your job? Once you know the total amount coming in, then track what regular bills you have to pay. This may include things such as rent, utilities, medications, childcare, groceries, ect. Only look at what is absolutely necessary to survive for now. These are your needs. Subtract your needs from your total income. What you have left over is what you can decide to spend on your wants or put into savings.

Adjust income or expenses as needed.

Maybe your bills are more than your income. If this is the case, you will need to figure out how to cut out some of the needs or add more income. Maybe you need to pick up a second job or find a way to get help in covering some of those needs.

Make a monthly savings goal.

Once you have determined what is left of your income after your bills are paid, it is helpful to pick a specific amount to save. Start out small. Maybe you can only save five dollars a month, maybe twenty, maybe one hundred. Everyone is different. Make sure that the amount you choose to save is actually possible.

Make a total savings goal and identify your “why”.

After your needs and savings are accounted for, the rest of your income can be spent on your wants. It is very important to make sure that your savings and your needs are always taken care of before you spend on your wants. Once you have started a healthy habit of saving and have built up your nest egg, you will have to decide what to do with it. Start with a goal for a rainy-day fund. Pick a specific amount you want to build your savings up to: maybe its five hundred dollars in case the car breaks down or a security deposit on a place to live. Whatever you choose, stick to your goals. If you reach that goal, start a new savings goal.

Evaluate and adjust.

Make sure to constantly evaluate your goals. If you have to use your savings for something, then how can you work towards replenishing it? Revisit your budget every month. Do you have new bills? Can you cut some needs out? Can you afford to save more? Keep in the habit of tracking everything that you spend and save. Know where all your money is going so that you can decide if you want it to go to something different.

Family Promise offers our Check 1,2,3 program that takes an in-depth look at financial literacy and can help you take specific action steps in order to reach your financial goals. By making a budget and developing good saving and spending habits, you can step out of your own shadow and spring into a new year in order to reach all of your goals!

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