Guest Blog by Audrey Johnson, EFAA Basic Needs Casework Manager
Last year, 44% of American households surveyed said they could not cover a $400 emergency expense with savings. We know that many middle-income workers are living paycheck to paycheck – now imagine how much harder it must be for low-income workers!
Everybody has emergencies. It’s impossible to predict what they will be, but you know something will happen: The car may break down. You might have a medical need. You may need to take unexpected time off work to handle a family crisis. A spouse or partner could leave the household. For families coming to EFAA, already living close to the edge, any one of these could be enough to push them into homelessness. That’s why it’s so important that EFAA is able to provide rent assistance.
When a family becomes homeless, even just one time, it has immediate effects on the kids. Children may need to change schools, disrupting their day-to-day lives. They may not be able to consistently eat well or have a quiet place to do their homework. Later in life, they are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to experience health problems. At EFAA, we work to prevent family homelessness and give children their best chance to succeed.
With new funding from the City of Boulder, EFAA has launched the Keep Families Housed program. Now, families with children can receive $500 in rent assistance from EFAA up to three times in 2017 – a significant increase over the one-time assistance offered before. Families can remain stable through more than one economic shock with this level of assistance, or use the help to build up their own savings. One EFAA participant said, “Having no family support system to help, I am grateful for EFAA and the people in the Boulder community to help less fortunate/financially stable community members.” Many families have shared with us that this extra assistance provides them with peace of mind for the future, and a greater sense of stability for themselves and their children.
We have also adopted a two-generation approach with this new funding. Keeping children stable and housed is important, and this is also an opportunity for EFAA to ensure that children are given the opportunity to thrive. To receive continuing help, families are asked to complete certain requirements for their children’s long-term well-being. These include ensuring their children have health insurance and a medical home, are participating in preschool, school or GED programs, and have access to healthy and nutritious food. Some families have used the extra funding to prepare for the arrival of a new baby, or clothing and therapy for their children. Parents must also participate in a financial education class or meet privately with a financial counselor to create a personalized action plan. With all this, the relatively small investment of only up to $1500 over the course of the year creates huge dividends for the immediate and future success of the family.
I leave you with the words of an appreciative Keep Families Housed recipient: “This program is a gift. Without it I don’t know where we would be.”