Homeless family falls into shelter loophole

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- As 13-year-old Dayla reads her grandmother’s plea for help, Connie Black smiles despite the tears in her eyes.

“I am reaching out to everyone who has a heart simply because my children deserve a chance,” Dayla read.

Black, 60, has primary custody of her six grandchildren, but she’s sick and can’t work. She said she's in the process of applying for disability

“We ended up being evicted,” said Black.

She needed a place to go, so she went to local shelters. But there was a problem.

“They told me I could only take two children with me. What am I supposed to do with the rest?” she asked.

In fact, Chere Bradshaw with the Community Alliance for the Homeless said it's a widespread issue in Memphis and many shelters have limits on the ages and genders of guests they allow.

“We’ve heard those issues about the families. So one of the issues we need is a low-barrier shelter where people can come in regardless of family size or composition,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said they were working with the mayor’s office to build one. In the meantime, they will get a hotel room for a family but only in the most dire circumstances. That’s essentially what Black is already doing while she stays with a friend.

“It’s only a two-bedroom apartment and it’s two beds. I have three sleeping on the floor,” said Black.

Who knows how many other kids are missing school today because they don’t have a stable home? How many can’t handle the stress? Who can help them? This grandmother doesn’t know the answer.

"It’s getting to the point where I don’t know what to do anymore. I can only take so much," she said.

Black said she was saving up to buy a home. Her grandchildren started a Go Fund Me account to support her.

Federal funding is available for organizations that have space to create a potential shelter. The city of Memphis's strategic community investment funds facilitates the grants, according to Bradshaw. You can get more information here or contact the Community Alliance for the Homeless.