Despite its success, our Home to Stay program will be closing in June due to the City’s decision to cut funding in order to expand another homeless program. In the final part of our two-part Home to Stay blog series, we take a look at the program’s legacy and impact on staff and clients alike.
To date, CUCS’ Home to Stay program has worked with over 600 families. It has helped them find a home in the community, identify barriers and work towards achieving their goals. Barriers for Home to Stay families range from mental health issues, to lack of education or employment, to domestic violence. Helping families work through these barriers has not only been essential to the model, it also led to incredible moments of resiliency.
Many Home to Stay families have either spent years in the shelter system without any hope of getting out, or feel that moving out and into an apartment is not something that they are able to do on their own. But our Home to Stay team has continuously demonstrated that families can get out of homelessness and build brighter futures.
One of our favorite steps in the process is lease signing and obtaining keys, a really exciting time for families and especially for the children. When families bounce from shelter to shelter, it disrupts the children’s lives so frequently. Ensuring that children have a stable and consistent home is particularly important to the program.
“There was one family that really, really wanted to be placed before the holidays. The parent was really specific about not wanting to spend another Christmas in the shelter, and wanted the kids to have a tree and wake up on Christmas morning in a home. And we were able to do that for them,” Amy Gottheimer, Home to Stay’s former Program Director recalls.
Once housed, Home to Stay’s intensive support and after-care ensures that families remain housed and stable. During after-care, the case manager checks in every 3 months with the family to make sure everything is going well, that they’re maintaining the apartment and following-up on their goals. Goals can consist of getting more education, developing employment skills, and applying for low income lottery apartments once the rental subsidy expires.
As Home to Stay’s current Program Director, Jeremiah Hulburt explains, “In the shelter system there is so much focus on getting people out that it is not as person centered as anyone would like. We go into the shelter and are able to demonstrate that we care about the families we are working with and want to hear what their goals and interest are to help them achieve those.”
The road to success hasn’t come without its challenges, either. One of those being the stigma that’s associated with family homelessness. Landlords are often hesitant to rent to our population not only because of the general stigma, but also because of prior experience with rental subsidies. Home to Stay made it its goal to work with landlords and brokers to overcome that.
The program that started out as a small team working with a special needs population quickly became a city-wide strategy in the fight against family homelessness. As the program grew, it continued to demonstrate the need and significance for additional support among this population that had not been well serviced in the past.
“I am saddened that this work in this current iteration is ending. I know that the families the program has touched are going to be impacted significantly by the work they have all done. All the staff has significantly impacted me in the way that I am able to be a program director, in the way that I am able to have my own practice and ensure that those values and efforts get carried on into other parts of CUCS,” states Amy.
The 23 dedicated Home to Stay staff members have worked with families that have had many disruptions in their lives. Helping them cope with and manage the pitfalls and challenges of housing has left a long-lasting legacy for the hundreds of families the team has served.
“I’m really proud of all the work that we have done. We have impacted a large number of families in a really significant way. For a lot of the families, being in the shelter is the worst time of their lives and being able to be there at that moment and help them move into an apartment is pretty significant. We did amazing work with folks and it really highlights the need for more services for homeless families, and more services in the community,” says Jeremiah.
The team is leaving each family with a support plan so that they feel confident in their ability to manage things that may come their way.