One apartment, 28 applications. If you’ve had a conversation with me in the last year, you’ve probably heard me mention that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on low-income children and their families. Each day we see this when working with families in one of our housing programs. Many families seeking rental housing in our community have encountered great difficulties in finding homes.
We thought the silver bullet to obtain housing would be our voucher program, formerly called Fresh Start, where families facing homelessness receive a form that guarantees payment of rent for a specific period of time. Despite this, many of these families are still unable to find adequate housing. We are seeing a great deal of negative effects that this is having on families.
One family that has been impacted by this difficult situation is a mother named Melissa, and her five-year-old son, Kaleb. Melissa worked in the restaurant industry, but like many others working in this industry, lost work during the COVID-19 shutdowns. It had taken some time for her unemployment payments to start kicking in, and she ended up losing her home. She was left with no other choice but to couch surf at the homes of close friends and family members, paying them whatever she could afford to go toward rent for allowing her and Kaleb to stay in their homes.
Realizing that she needed a more long-term solution, as her financial situation was not improving; she and Kaleb moved into our shelter program. Within one week of partnering with us, Melissa was able to find a new job. Within two weeks, she received a voucher, which serves as a commitment to pay the security deposit for a home, and at least six months of rent.
However, when searching for a home for her family, she came to realize that there were very few openings that she qualified for. When she was finally able to find an opening, it required an application fee of $55. These types of difficulties persisted, prolonging the temporary homelessness for her family.
Melissa and Kaleb’s story is just one example of the many families who have been impacted in similar ways. As a result, we are now utilizing some industry-leading best practices to help families like Melissa’s get a place of their own to call home. This includes working with families to write letters to prospective landlords, offering incentive$ to landlords who will work with our program, building personal relationships that encourage engagement with Family Promise, and highlighting the long-term case management we provide to support families in our stabilization program.
Finding housing is hard, but we’re hopeful that these strategies will help families have more opportunities to ensure that every child in our community has a safe place to call home.