This program provides a safety net for families who are homeless because of a recent job loss, car repair, or illness and are about to lose the rest of what they have because of an impending or recent eviction. HFA helps them to get back on their feet before more damage is caused to the family.
Here is how it works. Families who have been recently evicted or are nearing homelessness are eligible for housing through HFA. Various relief agencies refer families to HFA. Families that are selected into the program receive housing at a subsidized rate for three months. In order to be eligible, someone in the family must be employed or recently employed. They pay $50 the first month and $200 for each of the next two months. The churches pool their funds to pay the balance between what the renter pays and what the owner of the apartment charges. Just a few hundred dollars each month is needed. All of the coordination for the project is done with volunteers; there are no overhead costs. In our city the churches have raised enough money to rent two apartments for use in Home For Awhile.
HFA is not an impersonal program. During the three months that the tenants are in the HFA apartment, they meet regularly with a mentor who is helps them to work through whatever issue that caused the family to near homelessness. Do they need help in finding a new job? Getting their car fixed? Help in finding childcare? Getting some additional job training? Getting a new community of friends? Financial counseling? Something else?
Three months gives a family enough of a breather to get caught up on finances and ready to get back on their own. A the end of three months, the family should have saved enough money to move into a different apartment and open the space in the HFA apartment for another family for the next three months.
The pilot program has only had two housing units. The three month rotation allows us to help eight families each year. After a year of experience and benefit to several families, the leadership of HFA is considering expanding to more units.
This program only is for a segment of the homeless population. Other programs will need to be started or strengthened for other segments of the homeless population.
An unexpected benefit is the camaraderie and cooperation among the churches. There aren’t that many projects where leadership from Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist and Presbyterian churches can unite together to help solve community problems. HFA is becoming known in our community.
How about supporting Home For Awhile or giving it a try in your community? For more info write: firstname.lastname@example.org.