10 Helpful Resources for Low-Income Families on the Move

Moving isn’t easy or inexpensive, even when everything goes according to plan.

That said, last-minute moves caused by job loss, natural disasters, and unexpected deaths are typically even more stressful, overwhelming, and financially burdensome.

Thankfully, low-income families in situations like these have several resources at their disposal.

Of course, eligibility requirements vary, applying for assistance can be tedious, and not everyone will qualify for every program.

On the bright side, most programs have experienced employees and volunteers who specialize in helping people in distress get the help they need.

In some cases, the following agencies, organizations, and charities may be able to help with emergency relocation costs.

Before reading on, take a moment to check out these helpful posts:

  • Best interstate movers – The moving industry is full of shady players. With so much at stake, it’s worth hiring a top-rated long-distance mover with verified customer reviews
  • How much will your move cost? – Our moving cost calculator is a great resource. Just enter your move dates, origin and destination cities, and the estimated size of your move, and the magic algorithms will do the rest
  • Consider moving containers – It’s simple. You load and unload, they drive, and you save big bucks

1. 211.org

We all know to dial 911 during an emergency, but 211 may be a better option in certain situations.

211 is a free, confidential, phone-based assistance service provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In non-life-threatening emergencies, it can be a helpful resource.

Instead of providing direct aid, 211.org functions as a clearing house that connects people in distress with agencies and charities (like the United Way) that may be able to provide assistance.

211.org is available to more than 300 million Americans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

For those with nowhere else to turn, 211. org’s experienced operators may be able to find resources to help with last-minute moves resulting from health and housing issues and natural disasters.

Learn more and get help:

  • Dial 211 and speak to a trained operator
  • If your situation isn’t dire, take a few minutes to check out 211. org’s website

2. The Salvation Army

Since 1865, the Salvation Army has been on a mission to alleviate suffering and help people meet their most basic needs.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based organization, but its services are available to anyone.

With abundant programs, national reach, and strategic partnerships at nearly every level, few better resources exist for low-income families in turmoil.

Since many emergencies require relocating on short notice, some programs may offer cash that may be used to cover moving expenses.

If so, applicants must prove that they’re financially challenged and experiencing a life-changing emergency.

Emergency funding generally goes directly to service providers like movers, but receipts may be submitted for reimbursement in some cases.

Each program isn’t available everywhere, but additional Salvation Army resources may include:

  • Food support
  • Job training and placement assistance
  • Anti-trafficking and domestic violence services
  • Access to shelters, transitional, and long-term housing

Learn more and get help:

  • Call the Salvation Army toll-free at 800-SAL-ARMY (800-725-2769) to speak with a representative

3. Veterans Administration (VA)

For veterans and their families, there’s no better emergency resource than the VA. 

The VA provides a wide variety of services from housing to healthcare, and some low-income families may also qualify for relocation aid and transitional housing assistance in emergencies.

If not, Veterans Administration representatives may be able to connect veterans with outside organizations and charities that can help.

In addition, the VA has programs specifically designed to assist disabled, women, and minority veterans.

Learn more and get help:

  • Consider calling the Veterans’ Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 before applying for a specific program 
  • Homeless vets or those that may become homeless should call (877) 4AID VET (877-424-3838)
  • VA assistance to help avoid eviction

4. Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities is a well-known provider of need-based assistance programs designed to stamp out poverty in the United States.

Sadly, low-income families are often forced to move on far shorter notice than their more affluent counterparts.

In situations like these, the costs and stress associated with moving can make bad situations even worse.

Thankfully, Catholic Charities and its partners may be able to provide emergency relocation aid for families facing homelessness or dealing with domestic abuse.

Additional services include help with:

  • Affordable housing
  • Food and nutrition
  • Disaster relief
  • Physical and mental health

Learn more and get help:

  • Call Catholic Charities’ headquarters at 703-549-1390 in a time of crisis
  • Find your local chapter by visiting CatholicCharities.org

5. FEMA’s Federal Relocation Assistance Program

FEMA’s Federal Relocation Assistance Program is another excellent resource, but it’s only available to families experiencing hardships due to natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

After a natural disaster, relocation expenses may be covered for those whose homes or apartments have become unlivable.

Temporary housing may be provided when damaged residences require only relatively minor repairs.

Eligibility for the Federal Relocation Assistance Program is generally determined on a case-by-case basis after an on-site assessment by a FEMA inspector.

In addition, applicants may qualify for assistance with childcare, food relief, and disaster-related medical expenses.

Learn more and get help:

6. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD is a federal agency responsible for housing policy in the United States. 

Though HUD is most well-known for enforcing fair housing regulations, the agency also administers several programs aimed at preventing homelessness by making affordable housing available to those in need.

To qualify for a Rapid Re-housing or Homelessness Prevention Grant, applicants and their families must be facing imminent homelessness or already be without a permanent residence.

In addition, those living in subsidized (Section 8) housing who are being forced to move because their housing unit is undergoing rehabilitation or demolition may qualify to have their relocation expenses covered.

Navigating federal bureaucracies can be tricky, and many HUD programs are administered locally through state and city housing agencies, shelters, and private charities.

Learn more and get help:

7. The Housing Industry Foundation’s Emergency Housing Fund

The Housing Industry Foundation (HIF) helps individuals and families stay in their homes or find stable, affordable housing alternatives through various programs.

The foundation provides emergency grants to individuals and funds to renovate shelters.

Thanks to affiliations with charities, government agencies, and community-based organizations, HIF’s partners are able to evaluate and qualify applicants in tenuous housing situations, like those that often result from medical emergencies, deaths, or employment issues.

To qualify, interested parties must prove financial need and demonstrate their ability to use emergency housing grant funds for sustained stability.

Grants of up to $2,500 may be made when these criteria have been met, especially to families threatened with homelessness.

in 2021 alone, HIF distributed nearly $1 million in assistance that kept approximately 500 families off the street.

However, applicants must generally be referred to HIF through a partner organization.

Learn more and get help:

8. Travelers Aid Society

The Travelers Aid Society’s roots date back to 1851, when St. Louis, Missouri Mayor Bryan Mullanphy donated $500,000 to the city to help pioneers who’d fallen on hard times while headed west.

Since then, the society has expanded nationally and internationally to assist travelers and indigent and marginalized segments of the population with transportation, job training, temporary housing, and immediate food needs.

As its name implies, the Travelers Aid Society primarily focuses on helping those experiencing hardships while traveling.

The Travelers Aid Society doesn’t provide direct assistance for moving, but it may be able to help find temporary housing for those who qualify.

Learn more and get help:

Learn more about international moves from our friends at GoodMigrations.

9. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Housing Service

The USDA’s Rural Housing Service does not provide funds for hiring movers or renting a moving truck.

However, qualified applicants willing to live in officially designated rural areas may have access to loans, grants, and subsidies for affordable housing.

Likewise, in communities with inadequate public funds, the Rural Housing Service provides the resources necessary to upgrade and rehabilitate community resources like police and fire stations, libraries, schools, and hospitals.

Learn more and get help:

10. ModestNeeds.Org

For many families, an unexpected $1,000 expense isn’t the end of the world, but it can be catastrophic for some.

Thankfully, for those living at or below the poverty line experiencing a temporary crisis, ModestNeeds.org may be able to provide one-time self-sufficiency grants that can often be used to pay for last-minute moves.

Needs-based grants generally range between $700 and $1,200 and are paid directly to service providers instead of to individuals.

To qualify, applicants must prove that they’re living at or below the poverty line and experiencing a crisis that may lead to poverty, homelessness, or other hardships.

It’s worth noting that on some online review sites, ModestNeeds.org has gotten poor scores from applicants who claimed they were treated poorly and that the application process was too tedious and time-consuming.

Learn more and get help:

Additional resources for low-income families facing unexpected moves

In times of crisis, few things are more frustrating than dealing with lengthy applications and mind-numbing bureaucracies.

Though the aforementioned resources are worth considering, it’s often best to take a more grassroots approach.

When facing homelessness or an unexpected move you can’t afford, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out to:

  • Friends, family members, and coworkers
  • Local churches and charities
  • Your employer
  • Your city, town, or county government

Even if they can’t help, chances are they’ll be able to point you in the direction of those who can.

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