Abilene family puts face on city's homeless situation


ABILENE, Texas - Imagine being out in the rainy weather without a roof over your head. T hat's what one Abilene family is facing after recently finding themselves homeless, a nd it's a bigger problem in the city than you might think.

With just about everything they own on a cart, Billy Gurganus, his wife, and their four kids ages 10 to four are newly homeless -- spending Monday night at an Abilene motel.

"It's horrible," Gurganus said. "It's a horrible feeling. It's not good. It's not a good feeling."

After losing his job, then being evicted from their apartment, they stayed at the Salvation Army for nearly two months as they try to get back on their feet.

"I do have a job," Gurganus said. "I just haven't got paid yet. I just started the job. It's just been really rough for us to find a place to live -- just having a really hard time this year."

His wife says it's stressful going from place to place trying to provide basic necessities for their kids.

"[We need to be] where they have electricity and running water, and we're just trying our best," Carol Gurganus said.

John Cooper, the executive director of Abilene Hope Haven, said it's an overwhelming problem. Abilene Hope Haven is an organization that helps the homeless find permanent housing. The only problem is the demand far outweighs resources.

This year, Abilene Hope Haven has had nearly 400 people needing their help. Their shelter has 21 beds. They help about 30 other families with rent.

"We need more resources for case management," Cooper said. "That means we need more money to have more case managers. We need more landlords to come on board and say we'll work with you and will give people a second chance for fair housing."

Billy said they haven't had to sleep on the streets, but that's getting close.

"I just keep praying to God something will happen sooner or later," Gurganus said.

The Salvation Army usually only allows people to stay there for 30 days because it's meant for emergency relief -- not long-term housing. But the organization never asked the family to leave.

The Gurganus family was there for nearly two months and the Salvation Army tells us if needed, they're welcome back for two more weeks and they'll have a case manager who can hopefully help the family find more permanent housing.