Thursday, August 27, 2009

Graduation Stories

Some success stories about families graduating next Tuesday from Community LINC's transitional housing program...

Kenya came to Community LINC with her 3 children. Because she had been incarcerated, it was difficult for her to find employment that would pay enough money to support her family. Having a felony eviction also kept her from applying for public housing. When she went into a homeless shelter, she was unemployed and had moved from family member to family member. Kenya was a hard worker when she was at Community LINC, but because of the felony conviction, everything she did took extra effort. Kenya got a job with Aim for Peace, a program that assists families of convicted felons. Through this program, she is able to give the services she once needed. While at Community LINC, Kenya eliminated the debt that kept her from finding housing. She and her children now have a permanent home.

Caroline, a single mother of a little girl, came to Community LINC after a long stint of substance abuse, homelessness, and chaos. While in our program, she maintained her hard won sobriety, became gainfully employed, retired a significant amount of debt and began work toward an undergraduate degree. She more than doubled her wages and no longer relies on public assistance from food stamps. Today, Caroline and her daughter live in a quaint three-bedroom home.

Shirley and her son became homeless after her health made it impossible to run her home day care. She found it difficult to get back into the work force after so many years providing childcare. When she lost her income, she and her son not only became homeless, but her foster children were removed from her care. She and her son eventually ended up at the Forest Avenue Shelter. After she came to Community LINC, she found and maintained permanent employment which prepared her to apply for a Section 8 housing voucher. She and her son now live again in permanent housing.

Desiree is a mother of three daughters who had a stable job, but didn’t earn very much working in a drugstore. She couldn’t afford to provide housing for her family, so they had lived with several relatives. She wanted something more stable for her children, but her credit problems and the legal issues they caused kept her from finding housing. During her time at Community LINC, Desiree paid off all of her legal debt and was able to move her children to permanent housing.

Mario, Ayeshia and their daughter came to Community LINC from the reStart homeless shelter. Mario and Ayeshia had lived with family members, but space was limited, so they had to go to a homeless shelter. Mario’s felony conviction and legal issues arising from traffic warrants made it very difficult for him to find a job. He couldn’t afford legal counsel, or pay the tickets and fines. Ayeshia had been downsized at her company and found it difficult to focus on finding employment without stable housing. After coming to Community LINC, both parents found permanent employment, they paid all housing related debt, they resolved all legal barriers that kept them from working and obtaining drivers licenses. Ayeshia and Mario are residing in permanent housing in South Kansas City.

Cynthia is a single mother of four children who entered our program in April of 2007. Due to complications arising from a high-risk pregnancy, she was unable to work after her short-term disability ran out. Consequently, Cynthia’s employment was terminated and the family was evicted from their apartment within two months. In addition, she had mounds of old debts, significant barriers to housing, and had been forced to postpone plans to obtain a secondary degree. In April 2009 Cynthia and her four children moved into a four bedroom ranch-style home. Adding to her success, she has more than doubled her income, retired most of her debt, amassed over $3000.00 in savings and no longer relies on any public assistance.

Virna had served in the Air Force and was honorably discharged. Like many others, she lost her job at Sprint, which eventually made it impossible to keep her apartment. She and her daughter moved from family member to family member until she was forced to go to an emergency shelter. Virna and her 15 year old daughter were referred to Community LINC by City Union Mission. While in the program, Virna found a full time job that tripled her income. She also connected to veterans benefits for herself and her daughter. She was able to remove all housing related debt, as well as some of her outstanding credit debt. Virna also achieved her goal of returning to school to finish her degree. When she left for a permanent home, she had accumulated enough savings to create a cushion for her family in case of emergencies.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Than Ending Homelessness

A couple of weeks ago I told you about an article written by Mary Beth Shinn of Vanderbilt University called Ending Homelessness for Families: The Evidence for Affordable Housing. The bottom line for the article, and my blog entry, is that families become homeless when they are extremely low income and can’t afford an apartment at the market rate rent. They end up living with relatives or in places “unsuitable for human habitation” when there isn’t enough subsidized housing.

If the goal is just to end homelessness, for the vast majority of families, all they need is a housing subsidy. However, our mission is to develop self-sufficient families.

For some families, self-sufficiency will only mean ending their homelessness. We know that among our families there are some that will never afford a home of their own without a government subsidy. Poorly educated single parents will always be challenged to independently support their families.

Many of our families are aiming for a different kind of self-sufficiency though. Myeshia finished her GED and starts college this Fall. Stephanie paid down the debt that was keeping her from getting a home. John is finishing culinary school. Virna left nearly debt-free for her own (unsubsidized) apartment. The list goes on.

For them, self-sufficiency will mean that they rise above homelessness and out of poverty.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knowledge is Power

The saying is certainly true for Vera and her family. Following layoff and a history of poor choices and financial decisions, Vera and her family were subjected to a long and painful stint of living with family members and in homeless shelters. Once she entered Community LINC and began to take advantage of the programs and classes, however, things started to turn around. Now armed with newly acquired budgeting and life skills, Vera is almost debt-free and once again living in the comforts of her own apartment.

Yes, it is true. Knowledge is power!

- Jeannine Short, Director of Programs