Cathy had lived in 18 apartments in nine years. On the verge of homelessness, a family member took her in temporarily. She and her four children were crammed into one bedroom.
She was $65,000 in debt, including student loans taken out when she got an associate degree. She had a job in retail making about $11 an hour and could only work a few hours a week because full-time child care costs could be three times what rent was, and would have obliterated her small paychecks.
Today she has a well-paying job, has cleared up her debts and has even purchased a home — the first she has ever owned.
She credits Partners in Housing for her transformation. Searching for inexpensive, safe housing a couple of years ago she heard about the charitable agency that provides one year of transitional housing, life skills training, credit counseling, and child enrichment help to those undergoing housing crises.
Courtney Hoff, Partners in Housing program director, noted, “Ours is a quiet population. It’s not a happy time in their life, and they often don’t ask for help or don’t know where to go for help. We bridge the gap in their journey to success and share our energy with them.”
The goal is self-sufficiency. “We aren’t a Band-Aid. We want them to grow and they are the ones doing the work,” Hoff noted.
The agency helped 127 adults and 263 children last fiscal year. Of the families, 90% improved self-sufficiency, 77% increased income, and 49% improved their education, said Mary Stegner, executive director.
Like many other clients, Cathy did not have a good rental history and had experienced eviction. Partners in Housing clients are expected to pay some rent based on income. It helps build a good rental history, so they can find housing after the yearlong assistance program.
Cathy, who is divorced and does not want her real name used, said it took her a bit to trust the Partners in Housing process. “When you have been homeless, it’s hard to ask for help.” She worried the housing would be in an unsafe area for the kids. But she was thrilled by the rental condo, one of many adequate and safe housing units run by the agency. “It was the prettiest place we had ever lived.”
Even before the condo was available, Cathy was able to start taking the agency’s classes on finances, budgeting and job skills. She underwent career assessment, participated in mock interviews, and got help with applications. She also had access to a computer lab to create resumes. There was a child care center available during class sessions, a small food pantry and access to clothing and goods needed and referrals for other needs. The interlude gave her time to seek work in her chosen profession, which would pay more than triple what she had made.
Six months into the program she found a good-paying, full-time job to support her family.
She worked relentlessly with a financial lender until she could purchase a house within her budget and near work. ‘I can’t believe it’s real. It’s a beautiful Victorian, and the kids love it.”
She met monthly with a Partners in Housing money mentor for financial checkups. “It kept me accountable,” she said. “They just don’t let you go. They go above and beyond to see that you succeed.”
Eventually, she took training and is now a Partners in Housing mentor helping other families. “I wanted to be someone a family could relate to and see it could be done,” Cathy said.