Opinion: Bridging gaps, building futures: Some live just one paycheck away from homelessness

He had a workplace accident in August and had fallen behind in his rent. One of Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s (CVOEO) Housing Assistance Program (HAP) staff referred him to the Seasonal and Crisis Fuel Program, and Weatherization services. We set up a payment agreement with his landlord and supported that with Housing Replacement Funding. He had his taxes completed at our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Tax Site. The $1,000 he will be receiving from his return will tide him over until he goes back to work. His words: “I can’t wait to get back to work.”
It is no longer an adage. We now have the surveys and research reporting that a full third of our population is “only one paycheck away from homelessness.” Finding a home and remaining in a home are continually at the top of the list when looking at issues of poverty.
Do we throw up our hands because of the enormity of the need? Not in Addison County. Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing (HPRP) efforts were bolstered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) back in 2009. That program covered provision of security deposits and first month’s rent to get those in need quickly into housing. It made funding available for rental arrearages and short-term assistance to keep families in their homes and prevent homelessness. The Federal HPRP program ended on June 30, 2011.
The funding through HPRP made a significant impact on keeping families stable and helping vulnerable Addison County residents stay in their homes. The state of Vermont took up the challenge to continue this good work with Housing Replacement Funding (HRF). HRF took up where HPRP left off.
A single father with two young children came to CVOEO looking for help with just one month’s worth of rent. The time he spent in court addressing custody issues and an illness with one of his sons meant that he lost time at work. He is now back working full time and adjusting to being a single parent. The help of one month’s rent kept him from job loss and helped him keep current and in good standing with his landlord. “This assistance was a good investment in helping to stabilize this family,” said a CVOEO housing specialist.
HRF funding will end on June 30, 2013. A new opportunity awaits Addison County with a Community Housing Grant. Housing providers, advocates and community partners are gathering to plan and write one combined grant to address the housing needs in our community. This is a joint effort that will add a component of a warming shelter to protect those we serve from the winter weather.
She was fleeing domestic violence. She came from one of the Southwestern states and was working with WomenSafe. Advocates from WomenSafe, CVOEO and HOPE worked with her on subsidized housing, utilities, credit references and myriad other resources to make sure that she was safe and had a future that held promise. She is an example of collaboration at its best and what the new Community Housing Grant can provide.
There is an Irish proverb that says, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” We all benefit from that shelter.

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