March 18th, 2010
06:02 PM ET

Behind the scenes: families resort to homeless shelters

Program note: Join us tonight for the full story of the Buckhannon family. They, like many Americans, lost their house due to joblessness. The family of four now lives in a homeless shelter. Tune in at 10pm ET to hear about their struggles and their hopes to one day have a home again.

John Sanders
CNN Producer

As I tried to fall asleep, I couldn't stop wondering about the last person before me to sleep in this bed.

I wasn't freaked out about sleeping in a homeless shelter. I'd stayed in unusual places before, and I was only here for one night doing a story about people in rural areas coping with the recession's aftermath.

What kept me awake were the stories. What brought that last person here? What happened to them and their family that exhausted their final options and led them to a homeless shelter looking for help?

For Stephanie, the young mom I met at this shelter in rural Fannin County, Georgia, the story began about a year ago. She lost her job during the depths of the recession and couldn't find another. After months without a job, during one of Georgia's coldest winters in years, Stephanie and her three children were living in a home without heat or water. She knew she was out of options.

They'd been there for a little over a month when I met them. Since I was staying the night at the shelter, I got to know them a bit in the quiet of the evening. Stephanie has three kids. Brittany, the oldest is 12. Brandon is 10, and Skyler is only 4. We watched American Idol together and played Rock Band on the shelter's TV. The kids showed me their toys and tried to improve my ping pong skills. Skyler, the youngest, more than once wrapped himself around my calf and refused to let go even as I carefully walked around the shelter.

I was meeting them at what may be the lowest moment of their lives, but I was taken by this family's kindness, generosity and spirit.

I talked with Stephanie and the folks at the shelter again today. Since I was there, another mother with two young kids arrived, needing help. They've moved into the room I slept in, one of them probably sleeping in that same bed I slept in for that one night in the shelter.

A few weeks ago I wondered about the people who'd slept there before me. Now I can't stop thinking about those who came, and will continue to come, after.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Behind The Scenes • Economy
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I feel for this family and all the other families that find themselves in this predicament. Where are America's bountiful resources for these people? And how can Congress and the White House justify spinning their wheels on any other legislation (health care included) while suffering like this is going on. I am thankful there are homeless shelters to go to; just think how bad it would be if there weren't. But a homeless shelter is still no substitute for a home, a job, and a regular income where you can support yourself. I hope these families get those things soon.

    March 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Summer

    My heart goes out to her and others.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  3. Summer

    It's amazes me how kids make the best of the worst of situations. It's the mother who take more of the burden.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  4. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    Good story, there many of these stories out there, middle-class and the working-poor.
    These children suffers more then anybody, their whole world have turned upside down. They need extra caring at this time of their lives. Some of these shelters don't have programs for these children so they can learn how to deal with being homeless and trying to go to school if they can.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
  5. mike

    what I take away from a story like this is it can happen 2 anyone. This world can kick your ass. Whe live in a country that throws away more food then most countrys have 2 eat. America has people who need help & I wish I could help them all

    March 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Michelle Bradley

    Thanks for doing this story more like this need to be told and maybe the higher ups can see what is happening to family's across this country.joblessness doesn't care of age color or sexual preference it's hitting every place God bless the family's u spoke with God will make away for them.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:23 pm |
  7. Bruce M.McLaughlin

    Such sad times that we're living in today.

    I almost lost my house in 2005, and it was a harrowing experience. I had to move quickly to prevent it. I was lucky and made the right moves fast. Today, I'm living in a dump, w/mold, collapsed ceiling, lead paint, etc.. City, State or Charitable Orgs. don't want to help.

    DVA playing the bureaucratic games with my claim.

    I'm a disabled Vet, and that doesn't even matter. Life truly sucks in America today.

    I hope that family is able to revive their life.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  8. Lesley

    How sad, any income at all? Child support? Qualify for welfare and section8 housing? I feel for her kids

    March 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
  9. lara

    truly sad. i wish i could do something about this, it just breaks my heart.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm |