Friday, October 30, 2009

Pulling a Share of the Load

We’ve long been proud of the unique success of our program in ending homelessness for families – over the years an average of 80% of our families leave our transitional housing for a permanent home. About the same percentage DO NOT become homeless again for at least our two year follow-up period.

We always felt that tracking those results was a measure of the independence our families achieve after they have completed our program.

Jeannine Short, our Senior Director of Programs and Operations, just completed a study that revealed another measure of independence and our success in addressing the root causes of poverty. The study covered all of the families that left our program from 2005 through August of 2009. She compared the sources of income at entry and exit.

The results were gratifying.

On average, our families decreased their dependence on public assistance by 46% and increased income they earned by 109%. By becoming taxpayers themselves, our residents are saving the government more than $15,000 per month. That savings will total $180,000 every year.

The increase in income from private sources like wages and child support was even more gratifying. Our families increased the tax base by almost $55,000 per month, or $660,000 per year.

- Laura Gray

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stimulus Funding

We were excited to have a new staff member join us this week. He’s a warm, welcoming guy, but, the best part is that he’s here to reach out to people whose lives have been deeply affected by the economy – those who are newly homeless or at risk of becoming homeless for the first time.

From the National Alliance to end Homelessness: “Homeless programs are about to get a big push in a new direction. They used to focus on providing food and shelter. Now, the economic stimulus package is providing $1.5 billion to prevent people from becoming homeless and to quickly re-house those who do.”

This pool of funding that made it possible to hire our new case manager will give these families respite from the changes that have so dramatically changed their lives and the lives of their children. Our goal is for our case management to help them find needed services and the financial boost they need to remain independent and regain self-sufficiency.

- Laura Gray

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Finding Strength

A classic characteristic of women who have been in abusive and controlling relationships is the belief that they are worthless and incapable of surviving on their own. Even when there is no physical abuse, constant subjection to verbal assaults and demeaning mistreatment results in a weakened self-image and little or no confidence. Fortunately, many who somehow find the strength to leave such relationships also find the strength to succeed. Michelle is a wonderful example.

After leaving an extremely controlling husband, whom she solely relied on for care and support, Michelle entered Community LINC. With few marketable skills, a limited employment history, and few personal possessions, she entered the program and immediately began her long and difficult journey toward self-sufficiency. Motivated by her adverse circumstances, Michelle enrolled in and completed a GED program, settled all of her legal issues, obtained more lucrative employment, retired over $2000.00 worth of debt, saved over $3000.00, and moved to permanent housing.

Despite a long history of relying on others, Michelle found her strength and moved from dependence to self-sufficiency!

- Jeannine Short, Director of Programs

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interventions for Homeless Families

A couple of us just left a meeting with a researcher from a company engaged by HUD to study the effectiveness of the various methods of moving homeless families from emergency shelter to permanent housing.

They will evaluate several approaches to ending homelessness for families:

  1. Housing subsidies and no other services
  2. Transitional housing with intensive supportive services
  3. Rapid re-housing (placement in housing with temporary rental assistance) followed by services focused on keeping housing
  4. Assisting families in finding their own solutions to their housing problem.

The study will attempt to answer several questions:

  1. What is the relative effectiveness of the different approaches?
  2. Are the same interventions that give short-term housing stability effective for the long-term?
  3. Are there interventions that are more effective for some categories of homeless families than others?

Fortunately, when they measure effectiveness, they will be looking at more than ending homelessness for a family for a few months. They want to know if an approach will be effective in keeping a family stable – i.e. in permanent housing for at least 18 months. They also will be looking at how well the approach keeps families intact, because family dissolution is a significant side effect of homelessness. They will consider the well being of the adults and children, and finally, the impact on self-sufficiency – employment, earnings and dependence on public assistance.

I’ve mentioned some of our successes by these measures in previous blogs: 83% of our families remain in permanent housing for a minimum of 24 months; we routinely reunite families with up to six children; the earnings of our residents increase by more than 50% and their dependence on public assistance decreases by more than 30% by the time they leave.

Kansas City may or may not be chosen as one of the sites for the study. We were invited to the meeting as one of the agencies that are likely to participate. Even if we aren’t one of the cities in the study, it will be fascinating to learn from the results when they are reported out from 2011-2013.

- Laura Gray