Short-term and transitional housing programs are critical components of a robust safety-net. For many families, such housing provides a little breathing room when stabilizing from a shock, like the loss of a job or illness of a family member. It can also allow a parent time to find a new job, finish an educational program while working or caring for a child, or save enough money to be able to move on to greater self-sufficiency and financial stability. With this stability, the children in these families have a better chance at succeeding in education, becoming part of a strong workforce and, ultimately, moving out of poverty.
As part of EFAA’s commitment to providing affordable housing in Boulder County, EFAA has embarked on the construction of its sixth housing facility. In late January, EFAA held a groundbreaking ceremony for 16th Street Transitional Housing—the culmination of years of planning and fundraising. It is slated to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016. The apartment building, located across the street from our main offices at 16th and Yarmouth, will add 5 more housing units to EFAA’s current 53 units. Families with children stay in these units as part of either our short-term (up to 12 weeks) or transitional (up to 2 years) housing programs.
As the mother of a middle schooler, I can imagine how stressful, even terrifying, it would be to find myself unable to provide a stable home for my child in the wake of a shock in my life. For many, homelessness, frequent location changes and other symptoms of housing distress have damaging effects on children. This stress can impact a child’s physical and emotional health, in addition to their ability to perform well at school, or even stay in school. While we tend to think of the homeless as individual men or women, nationally 41 percent of the homeless population is comprised of families with children (National Alliance to End Homelessness).
Poverty and lack of affordable housing combine to put families at risk. Boulder County in general, and the City of Boulder most acutely, has seen a very steep decline in the number of market-rate affordable rentals over the last 20 years. In addition, while housing prices have soared, the wages of low-income workers have stagnated. In fact, the share of families with children who are below the Federal poverty line rose from 7 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2011 (Boulder County TRENDS 2013). Consider this: for someone working in a restaurant or hotel, where the average annual wage is $18,500, an affordable monthly rent would be about $462 (Boulder Housing Partners). The number of 2-bedroom rentals at this price in Boulder is essentially zero. So, to afford a rental means that this wage earner needs to spend more than half their income on rent, leaving very little for other basic needs, and certainly no cushion to withstand an economic shock, like job loss or medical troubles.
EFAA does not just provide affordable housing. EFAA case managers meet regularly with resident families to help them navigate access to other programs and benefits, plan family budgeting and saving strategies, and support progress toward greater stability and self-sufficiency. Because of the care we put into case management, EFAA has a strong track record, with 81 percent of families exiting successfully from our housing units to move onto stable, permanent housing solutions.
Julie Van Domelen, EFAA Executive Director