Family homelessness in Boulder County can be almost invisible, but it is a real and growing problem. It has far-reaching and long-term social costs for our community. One of EFAA’s core missions as a safety-net agency is to help prevent family homeless and get people back on their feet as quickly as possible.
Most people don’t realize that nearly half of Boulder County’s homeless population is families with children. And, this is the fastest growing portion of the homeless population. Rarely seen on the open street, many families live doubled or tripled up in apartments with friends or family, in their vehicles, in temporary motel rooms, or in one of the very few short-term or transitional housing units available to families.
There are many reasons why families find themselves at risk for homelessness. Inability to pay rent/mortgage is the leading cause of homelessness in Boulder County. This may be driven by loss of a job, illness, divorce, domestic violence or another shock to the household. But increasingly, rising rents and the lack of affordable housing here are leaving families without options.
The effects on families, particularly the long-term implications for children, are devastating. Children face frequent instability and dislocation, with lost school days and greater health and behavioral problems due the physical environment and emotional strain. Hunger, poor nutrition and developmental delays are more prevalent. Periods of homelessness have lasting effects on children, affecting school readiness, school performance, and their long-term ability to break the intergenerational poverty cycle. We don’t often think about homeless children here in our community, but in 2015 the Boulder Valley School District identified 539 homeless students in the district.
EFAA first seeks to prevent family homelessness by providing brief direct financial assistance to help families facing eviction. Over the last 12 months EFAA has disbursed over $430,000 in direct assistance for rent and utilities to keep people in their homes. When people find themselves in need of housing, EFAA owns or operates 53 apartment units, both short-term (up to 12 weeks, no rent) and transitional (up to 2 years, minimal rent) units. Over the last year, almost 500 people have lived in EFAA apartments and worked with our case managers to develop strategies for success, access other programs, and find a more stable housing situation. More than 80 percent of the families in our housing program successfully found affordable permanent housing after exiting EFAA’s housing.
To minimize the destructive effects of homelessness on children, a specialized EFAA case manager organizes after school activities, field trips and access to summer camps for kids residing in EFAA housing in Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont and Boulder. EFAA is currently looking at how to deepen our services to children to promote better childcare, parenting skills, and improved educational opportunities.
Family homeless has a huge cost to the households involved and to our society in general. EFAA is committed to working to raise awareness and find ways of addressing this issue with our partner private, non-profit and government agencies. This work not only helps the families we work with, but helps to build a stronger community in Boulder County. To make Boulder Better, donate to EFAA today.
Julie Van Domelen, EFAA Executive Director