“Anna” was grateful to be a stay-at-home mom after her baby was born last year. Her partner — the baby’s father — was the sole breadwinner for the family, including Anna’s other two school-age children. Until he changed his mind.
“He left her with three kids, no job, no money and no way to pay the rent. She was within hours of being homeless,” says Family Renew Community caseworker Kimberly Bandorf of her first encounter with the 30-something single mom and her 12-, 6- and 1-year-olds. Because of Family Renew’s new homelessness prevention services, Anna remained stably housed with her kids, allowing her to focus with Kim’s guidance on finding a job, securing child support and planning a way forward.
Family Renew Community began providing homelessness prevention services in January. Through a grant from Volusia County government, the organization can pay rent and utility bills for very low-income families in the county who would be homeless but for the assistance. Each household must include at least one child younger than 18 and cooperate in case management to plan for self-sufficiency going forward. Rent payments and related deposits are paid directly to landlords, who must agree not to evict clients during their program participation. Assistance is time-limited, with amounts and duration tailored to each family’s circumstances.
“I have people who just need assistance with utilities and budget management. I have clients who come in and they need everything. It kind of runs the gamut,” says Kim, who is Family Renew’s homelessness prevention specialist.
In Anna’s case, a suitable agreement could not be reached with the landlord of the apartment from which she was set to be evicted. So, with Kim’s help, she found a rental house in the DeLand area that will be affordable in the future with the pay from her house-cleaning job. Grant funds paid 90 percent of her security deposit and 75 percent of her first month’s rent. Kim referred her to other local agencies for assistance with utilities.
Though services are provided countywide, they are offered through Family Renew Community’s Holly Hill Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program. Donations from Family Renew Community supporters allow the assistance to include extras such as toys for the kids, blankets, cleaning supplies and other household essentials.
As with families who overcome homelessness through Family Renew Community’s housing programs, case management is the key to making a lasting difference in the lives of the agency’s homelessness-prevention clients like Anna.
“It’s about guiding her to where she should be – ‘no, you don’t really need Taco Bell twice this week, maybe you should get your oil changed instead,’” Kim explains. “She’s never had that. She’s always relied on the guy.”