When I left my childhood religion I was alone. I lacked knowledge of the resources that were available to help me. I never thought to apply for assistance. Eventually through need, and later through work, I learned about the programs I will describe below. In general, I will not include a link, because websites continually change, but I will include a proper search term. I can only speak for the government programs in the Unites States because that is where I am knowledgeable.
For many years after I left spiritual abuse, I struggled financially and I wish I would have explored these resources. I wish I knew the words to ask and the language to use. Hopefully this blog will give you that. Don’t let fear make you stay. On the outside, there are many dedicated, loving people who will help you. Here are resources you may find useful.
Resources if Domestic Violence is Occurring
I first needed public assistance in the form of temporary shelter when I left my abusive spouse. I had secret money my spouse did not know about, and I was working, so I stayed at the shelter only one night before moving into my new apartment. But the information they gave me was invaluable. It kept me from returning to him. Since then, I have met many colleagues who work at shelters and have learned they are a great resource for learning about public and private assistance. They can help you gather documents like social security cards and birth certificates that are needed to apply for public assistance. In many cases, they can house you for up to a year while you stabilize, find work, and apply for other resources.
If you are leaving abuse, or aren’t even sure that what you experience is abuse, please talk to someone from your own local shelter. The national hotline can put you in touch with local resources. The national hotline or 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
I excused behavior and blamed myself for being a bad wife, for not being submissive, and being spiritually weak. But after I learned about the types and patterns of abuse, I no longer blamed myself. If you have children, who are witnessing abuse, please seek help. You have a choice to stay but they do not. You can break the cycle of violence. They will be glad you did.
The Federal Government provides several options for housing assistance. These include rental assistance to prevent eviction, financial assistance to pay deposits on rentals, and even help down payment assistance on a new purchase. The programs are based on household size and income. Usually you must be within 200% of the federal poverty rate in your area.
If you are couch surfing and moving from one friends to another’s, or are living in a motel/hotel you will not be considered homeless for most federal emergency housing programs. However, if you spend the night in your car, a homeless shelter, or a place not meant for human habitation the night before you apply, you will be considered homeless, and then your income can be over the poverty level. Meaning you can get assistance for deposits even if you have good income. Federal program intakes will ask, “Where did you sleep last night?” If you qualify, the caseworker has to be able to document that you will be able to pay ongoing rent. In that case. there may be other long-term programs that may be a better fit. Some programs require documenting a disability, or length of homelessness. But I have seen many people be housed successfully by the federal programs
Research local Housing Authorities, Community Action Agencies, or HUD Approved Housing Counseling Agencies. These terms will help you locate agencies who specialize in housing and other forms of public assistance. Some of the programs to investigate would be:
ESG (Emergency Solutions Grant)
Section 8 (There may be a waiting line of 2 or more years for the Housing Choice voucher, but once it is obtained your maximum rent will be 1/3 of your income and the voucher will pay the rest. You may be able to use other rental assistance in the meanwhile.)
Permanent Supportive Housing (There must be chronic homelessness established.)
SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families. If you are veteran this is the best program for you.)
Resources for Food
Food Assistance programs can be found by Googling “resources for nutritional assistance” On this link you can see eligibility and your local office. Go to your local office because they fully understand the guidelines and can point you to local resources if you do not qualify. Also, if you qualify for food assistance, you will most likely automatically qualify for other programs like work programs.
When I was in college I often used the food bank as a resource toward the end of the quarter. Now I pay it back by donating to the food bank. I know there are many reasons for food insecurity, and there is no shame for using them when needed. Here are the food programs to consider:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
WIC (Women Infants and Children)
Food Banks (Locally sponsored. Use may be limited to a certain amount of time per month.
Free Meals in the Community (In many communities, churches will feed people on a rotating basis. I worked at one where we fed every Saturday morning.)
Meals on Wheels (for seniors)
Employment and Training
There are also work training programs to help people develop skills and improve their ability to get hired. TANF assistance is qualified through applying for public food assistance.
TANF Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Assistance in developing job skills, a living stipend in paid, and supportive services like child care or work clothes may be provided. You will be assigned a case manager and will have to meet program requirements.)
Displaced Homemakers (This is a specialized program to help someone who has stayed home raising children and suddenly needs to enter the workforce.)
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (Workforce training and youth employment programs)
Help Paying Electric and Heating Bills
Energy Assistance programs (LIEAP or LIHEAP are low-income programs to help pay monthly utilities and prevent shut offs. Income eligibility determined by assets and income.)
Weatherization (If you qualify for LIEAP or LIHEAP you probably qualify for weatherization services to help lower your energy bills. It may include things like adding insulation, covering windows, replacing water heater, etc.)
County Medical and Dental Clinics (These offer services on a sliding scale based on your income and may include mental health services.)
Community Action Agencies (Their mission is to alleviate poverty and improve lives; many of the services above can be found at a Community Action Agency.)
Low cost legal assistance (Many lawyers offer a certain amount of pro bono or low-cost services. www.LawHelp.org)
Area Agency on Aging (Provides referrals for seniors, including many meals on wheels programs, can help you connect with other senior for socialization)
211 (By dialing 211 or visiting 211.org you will find your local United Way who can provide you referrals to nearly every local resource.)
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1(800) 273-8255