BEDS helps individuals and families experiencing homelessness, but we’ve found that the best way to end homelessness is to stop it from ever happening. We safely shelter people and help them return to housing on the fair market or in units that we’ve built or leased. These approaches work well, but they demand significant investments from staff; volunteers; communities; and clients’ time, energy, and patience during a harrowing period in their lives. Homelessness Prevention (HP) keeps people in homes from the start; we’d like to give you perspective on this crucial program.
Who needs Homelessness Prevention?
People making low incomes. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) found that full-time, minimum wage workers (who include many essential workers) cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. Additionally, extremely low-income renters often devote half or more of their income to rent and utilities, which deprives them of food, transportation, healthcare/prescription medications, and other essentials. A crisis like a reduction in work hours, job loss, accident, injury, illness, or family change can send them spiraling through eviction, and, as the NLIHC notes, “For many the pandemic and economic fallout is that [crisis].”
For the first half of this fiscal year from July 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, BEDS has spent about $220,000 in rental assistance to help about 127 households.
How does Homeless Prevention work?
HP assistance and services have different requirements. Some have income qualifications, while others require proof of work and residency. The program has a few components:
Financial Assistance: Once someone becomes homeless, rehousing them grows more difficult and expensive for us and their communities. HP provides eleventh-hour assistance for past due rent (or security deposits on new housing) that keeps people from living on the streets.
Case Management: Households enter our HP program after crises have passed, but they often need to stabilize before they can sustain housing. Our case managers help them develop comprehensive plans to regain independence.
Service Referrals: We primarily focus on housing, but our case managers can refer clients to our community partners. These include healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers, employers, financial coaches, childhood and special education supports, and other resources.
Guidelines for rental assistance change constantly due to COVID-19 and related uncertainty. Applicants typically need documentation of their crisis and proof that before their crisis, they could independently pay bills. HP programs do not require proof of citizenship, and BEDS has fluent Spanish and Arabic-speaking case managers.
For example, a local family faced eviction when their primary income earner died from COVID-19. He left behind his wife, an elementary school child and preschooler. The mom had worked before the pandemic but stopped after schools closed for hybrid sessions. The family suddenly had no income and faced losing their housing almost immediately after the loss of their beloved husband and father. The mother's friends and family rallied around her to help with childcare, and she found employment. BEDS HP program provided four months of rental assistance so the family could stay in their home.
Why is Homelessness Prevention important now?
Our HP program will help area residents keep their homes and get back on their feet as the pandemic and its economic effects continue. To support people at imminent risk of losing their homes, click here.