Monday, June 30, 2014

There isn't enough affordable housing

By CEO/Executive Director Laura Gray

I read a lot of studies that tell us there isn’t enough affordable rental housing in the U.S. One such report from The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard - The State of the Nation’s Housing – was released last Thursday.

The report states that in 2012 nearly 41 million households paid more than 30% of their income for housing. Nearly half of all renters are considered housing burdened, meaning they pay more than 50% of their income for housing. Four out of five people who made less than $15,000 per year (roughly equal to full time work at minimum wage) paid more than 30% of their income for housing and two thirds paid more than 50%.

Logic tells us that a family spending more than 50% of their income on housing have less to spend on food and healthcare. The report confirms it.

What really caught my eye was a blog posting on the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends blog back on November 18, 2013. Erika Poethig posted that “The federal resources subsidizing homeownership far exceed those dedicated to subsidizing rental housing for America’s lowest income citizens. All the subsidies for homeownership – the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for property taxes, and the housing value that is not taxable – add up to about $300 billion annually. Compare this to the $37.4 billion the US Department of Housing and Urban Development spends on rental housing assistance. Throw in the tax subsidies for developers of affordable housing, which is about $8 billion a year, and there is still room for improvement.”

Don’t get me wrong. I take all of the deductions associated with owning a home. But, something feels wrong about so little assistance going to help ensure that children in extremely low income families have a home.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Intake Matters: Saying "Yes"

By Intake & Resident Specialist Holly Gardner

There are times during the screening process when I can see great potential for a family to move forward, make a plan and meet their goals.  There are times when I can see this in spite of what may seem like insurmountable challenges, when the family has a difficult time seeing this for themselves. This was the case when we screened Ms J.

Ms J is a young, single mom with a healthy beautiful little girl almost school age.  She shared with me that she really felt lost, unsupported and scared of what her future was going to hold, especially for her daughter.   Her first priority was a safe place to sleep and care for her daughter and she wanted to pursue a job to have income again. This was her goal in spite of great fatigue and declining health.

Her major barrier was health.  Although diagnosed with serious illness years ago, she had not faced the reality this illness was bringing in to her young life and to the people her life touched.  She didn’t have the ability to cope or to reach out for the professional help she was going to need to make informed decisions. Her family was toxic.  She really was lost.

I wasn’t sure how our program would impact her, but I could envision our staff providing the much needed resources and referrals to our community. We could encourage her and hopefully start filling those voids.  This is what we have done.

This young mom has decided to apply for disability, which she did not know she qualified for.  She is opening herself up to more information, she is beginning to lift the veil and deal with the reality that she may not be in her daughter’s life for as long as most moms.  As difficult as they are, she is taking her next steps.

Ms J’s housing journey is unique. My hopes are that she can take her next steps from here with more courage and information than she had when she came. She asked us to give her a safe place for her daughter’s sake, a place where she could make a meal for herself again, a place she could ask for advice, a place where she could calm down the turmoil around her.
I’m happy to say we said yes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Housing Matters: Fear

By Housing Coordinator Tammy Mayhue

What a wonderful experience watching a new family enter Community LINC. The children are happy and the parents have a sigh of relief on their faces. But for some, their worries have just begun.

I had a revelation today regarding a family who was approved for housing. This family has been homeless for about 1 year. They lived in a couple of shelters and also with a family member prior to coming to Community LINC. I contacted the mom to inform her of the good news. I recall hoping she would answer the phone instead of getting her voice mail.

She answered the phone and I said, “Congratulations you got the apartment!” There was what seemed to be a long void. I said, “Hello” she said “Yes.” “Did you hear me? You got the apartment.” She then said “Oooooooooh. OK..” I asked her if something was wrong, and she stated “Nothing is wrong.” I told her, she could move in next week and ended the call.

I sat at my desk thinking about what had just happened. Then it came to me, she is happy to have housing, but has anxieties of the unknown. She is fearful of possibly making the same mistakes and has fear of failure. She may be even dreading what’s to come. This experience has opened my eyes and reminded me that the families we serve are still healing from their past.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Program matters: Families are like puzzles

By Family Coach Frenchie Pulluaim

It is true families are like puzzles. The pieces can be different shapes, colors and texture, but all the pieces are needed to complete the puzzle.  This can also be said about our agency. It is also like a big puzzle.

To provide much needed service to our families we need the collective work of our staff, board,  donors, volunteers, and partnering agencies.  Although we have different skills and gifts , we all are important pieces of the puzzle. 

I want to highlight one of our puzzle pieces, Mr. and Mrs. McH.

This husband and wife duo are some of our faithful volunteers in our children’s program.  They have a camping ministry that allows our children as well as other children to experience the great outdoors with caring  adults who love children/youth.  They provide this ministry with little or no assistance,  always eager to give good advice and lots of love. 
The gift of time and patience is something our children are hungry for - just someone to validate that they are here and worthy to be heard, as well as loved. 

This couple has volunteered for years, and we are so grateful. Community LINC knows that Mr. and Mrs. McH are important pieces of our puzzle.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Employment Matters: Changing Careers Leads to Success

By Employment Job Coach Constance Taylor

It is a fact that there are families experiencing homelessness for the first time that never expected in a million years to be in this situation. But, not everyone has a support system and when faced with adversity life can be a challenge.

This was the case with one of our recent participants when she became ill and had multiple strokes about a year ago. The mini-strokes left her partially paralyzed in one of her hands.

She owned her own business and was quite prosperous in the hair care  industry. After knowledge of her illness and her inability to use both hands, her clientele started looking for new hairstylists. Before she knew it, she didn’t have money to care for her family. 

Unfortunately, after a chain of events, they became homeless. This is not uncommon among people who suddenly become ill and don’t have anyone to turn to. Once a person is deemed disabled it can sometimes take months or even years to receive disability income.

Since being at Community LINC, she decided to change her career path to caring for disabled persons. She started applying for jobs in the field of home health care.  She found employment with a local agency in a community of three single men. They are actually partially independent, but unable to stay alone due to health issues. There are currently two other caretakers in their home, which is located in a nice quiet neighborhood. She has recently acquired a Class E driver’s license and will assist with transporting the clients to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and outside social activities. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Children Matter: Relationships and Assumptions

By Children’s Program Director Ryan Blake

A core belief that we have with the Children’s Program is that children won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. As our families transition from Community Linc to their own housing so fast we are constantly trying to build relationships with the children that attend our program classes. Over the last two years I have seen how assumptions can destroy these relationships.

I recently spoke with a young man about why he is failing his language arts class. I told him I have seen him read and write how could he be failing? He explained to me that when he moved to his school they placed him in English as a Second Language class because he looked Mexican. When he finally got transferred to the right English class he thought “why should I try? They don’t even think I speak English”.

Last month I worked with a very intelligent high school student who changed schools several times due to her chronic homelessness. She described how she was always placed in classes that were too easy for her. At each school she had to request advanced placement classes and take tests to prove she deserved to be in them.  She told me she wished they didn’t make assumptions about her ability based on the way she looked or the clothes she wore.

Not long ago we had new cameras installed all over our campus. When I heard that a young man had vandalized one of the cameras I thought I knew for sure who had done it. I approached the young man and falsely accused him based on his past criminal history.  When I found out it wasn’t him, he told me he wished I wouldn’t have guessed it was him because of his background. I was never able to fully repair this relationship.

These stories help me to remember how damaging assumptions can be to the relationships we are trying to form with the children at Community Linc. We always want the children who attend program to feel accepted and respected. On Thursday a young man made me smile when he told me that he liked coming to program because it was a place where he could be himself and he could have fun with his teachers.