An Ounce of Prevention

June 19, 2019

Memories of inconveniences like long airport security lines and national park closures may linger from 2018’s federal government shutdown, but many government employees and their families had much greater worries – their paychecks stopped coming. People like Kevin*, a furloughed truck driver, were concerned about keeping a roof overhead and food on the table. Although circumstances were beyond Kevin’s control, his landlord still expected rent checks on time. The family risked eviction.

Fortunately, a local Family Promise Affiliate was able to prevent this with rental assistance to keep Kevin and his family in their apartment, as well as case management services to ensure they were managing their finances and enduring the crisis as best they could.

Through a partnership with Help Us Move In (HUMI), a Washington State-based nonprofit that provides funding for homelessness prevention, Family Promise now offers services that keep struggling families in their homes. The two-year program operates in the form of a challenge grant. Each year, HUMI offers participating Family Promise Affiliates $10,000 for homelessness prevention and rehousing services, which Affiliates must then double-match for a total of at least $30,000 in prevention funds.

The concept is simple, but the outcomes are considerable. Children and families stay in their homes, life remains stable, and the trauma, expense, and widespread disruption caused by family homelessness is averted. By the Department of Housing and Urban Development statistics, rehousing a family costs $11,000-$16,000. By contrast, based on the outcomes of the HUMI program over the past two years, a mere $1,189 keeps a family in their home.

When single mom Alison* lost her job, she knew she couldn’t afford rent, let alone continue her nursing studies. Family Promise of Colorado Springs helped the family stay in their apartment, using HUMI funds to provide rental assistance while Alison looked for another job. She remained in school, received her Certified Nursing Assistant degree, and found steady employment. She’s now applying to nursing school.

“HUMI funding has really made a difference in the way we serve and support families, as well as how we interact with the community,” says Crystal Karr, Family Services Manager at Family Promise of Colorado Springs.

The Affiliate is partnering with other service agencies to assist families facing homelessness, as well as developing relationships with landlords that help families in crisis retain housing. Karr is optimistic the HUMI partnership will open the door to many more alliances over time.

In fact, the HUMI program does more than safeguard housing. Intensive case management is required, and families receive individualized counseling and nurture important life skills like budgeting, tenancy best practices, and managing relationships, among others.

In Honolulu, Family Promise of Hawaii used HUMI funds to help a family that had suffered a tragic loss. When a single mother passed away leaving the eldest daughter to care for her siblings, the family quickly fell behind in rent and faced eviction. Family Promise helped with rent and worked with the landlord to establish a payment plan, which allowed the family to remain in their home. Family Promise also helped the oldest daughter find employment and adapt to her new role in the family.

Twenty-two Family Promise Affiliates have received HUMI funds since 2016, serving more than 1,000 families, including nearly 2,500 children. HUMI grants have amounted to $350,000, with matching funds from the communities involved surpassing $1 million. HUMI has pledged $1 million to Family Promise in the form of a matching grant to implement homelessness prevention programs at 100 Affiliates.

One Family Promise graduate whose family was the recipient of support through HUMI funding sums up her experience: “Even though it was a one-time deal, we’re so grateful for what Family Promise did for us. Without them, our lives would have taken a completely different turn.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

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