$1.8 million in stimulus money helps locals stave off homelessness

March 15, 2010

People on the verge of homelessness and those who recently became homeless because they’ve fallen on hard times have a new $1.8 million safety net in town: the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

The program, funded with federal stimulus money, provides short- and long-term rental and utilities assistance primarily to those affected by the poor economy. It doesn’t cover mortgage payments, but will help people facing foreclosure to move into an apartment. It also will pay for people to store belongings, provide them with basic credit and legal counseling, and pick up the cost of a motel if they can’t get into an apartment right away.

Those who work with the homeless herald the program because it’s the first locally with a preventive component.

“I think it’s fabulous that we finally get to focus some funds on the prevention of homelessness, or rapidly fixing the problem, rather than having people go to emergency housing,” said Anne Beer, director of Community Information Systems for Pikes Peak United Way. “The longer you stay homeless, the more you are impacted and the harder it is to get out, so the fact that we can put the money toward prevention and rapid rehousing is a great opportunity to turn that around.”

Seven agencies are taking part in the program, and all are required to provide case management. One, Peak Vista, is handling cases in rural El Paso County; the other six are serving Colorado Springs.

From Oct. 1, when the funds became available, to Dec. 31, the program assisted 48 people in El Paso County, using about $50,000, said Colorado Springs Housing Development Manager Valorie Jordan, who oversees it. Updated comprehensive figures won’t be available until the end of the month, but as of Monday, three of the agencies reported helping a combined 82 people, and had more applications pending.

The program is not for the chronic homeless or those with a shaky employment history.

“It’s intended for people who have been impacted by the economy, with a good work history and housing history,” Beer said. “It’s aimed at people with a high possibility of success.”

Nancy Erickson, 46, credits the program with keeping her out of homelessness. She recently walked out of an abusive relationship and into financial trouble, and ended up at a homeless shelter. Now, with help from program money funneled through Partners in Housing, she’s living in a southwest neighborhood apartment and getting budgeting lessons.

“If it was not for this program, I’d still be homeless, so it has helped me tremendously,” said Erickson, who hasn’t been able to work since 2005 and lives on disability. “They pay for rent, so basically what it boils down to, I’m paying for my doctors and getting medicines, buying food and catching up on bills.”



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