In 2016, Bridges to Housing Stability helped more than 300 households find, or remain in, stable housing. Some families come to Bridges’ Housing Stability Program already homeless, and staying in a shelter, with family members or hotel. Often they are at-risk of becoming homeless because their rent is higher than they can afford. Some householdsâ€™ circumstances are similar — debt, abandonment or abuse, poor credit, catastrophic illness, job loss, foreclosure, or lack of affordable housing close to where they work. However, Bridges understands that each family has its own story and approaches their situations as a puzzle, with challenging and unique solutions.
Housing Advocates work with each household to create a Housing Stability Plan. This Plan focuses on finding affordable housing while addressing that familyâ€™s unique set of barriers such as increasing income, decreasing debt, financial competency, understanding tenant rights and responsibilities, or repairing credit. The Plan connects families to community resources to overcome these barriers.
Below are three stories that illustrate how Bridges provides support to homeless or at-risk families to help them achieve housing stability:
Before coming to Bridges to Housing Stability, Mr. and Mrs. Perry and their four children spent their nights sleeping in their van. Mr. Perryâ€™s addictions, poor health and erratic employment were factors in this familyâ€™s homelessness.
Positive changes for the family began while the Perry family and their Bridges’ Housing Advocate worked together. Mr. Perry entered a rehab program and his health and overall well-being improved. Additionally, with the approval of his Social Security Disability Insurance, the familyâ€™s income increased.
The Bridges Housing Advocate found a private landlord willing to rent an affordable four-bedroom house to the Perry family. Since moving, Mrs. Perry received a promotion and pay increase at her job, and can work overtime. The oldest son started college, and the daughter graduated high school. The two younger sons also improved their grades in school. The Perry family is now paying their rent and utilities on time.
Within nine months of coming to Bridges, the Perry family has achieved housing stability, and Bridges was able to close this case to make room for another.
Ms. Norlin, a single mom with three children, came to Bridges in September 2014.Â She worked part-time but had been unable to secure full-time employment.Â She and her family lived in a low rate motel.Â With poor rental history, a poor credit report and a part-time job, Ms. Norlin had difficulty finding a stable home.
Ms. Norlin and her Housing Advocate developed a Housing Stability Plan with the goal of being in stable housing by the holidays.Â Bridges referred Ms. Norlin to the Office of Workforce Development to increase her employability and explore career opportunities. Â Ms. Norlin and her Housing Advocate worked together to identify previous debt that was preventing landlord/rental approval.
With assistance from Bridges, Ms. Norlin cleared her debt from a previous landlord, connected with community resources, increased her wages, transitioned from a part-time to a full-time job, and found affordable housing for her family. They were successfully re-housed in November, just in time to celebrate the holidays in a stable home.Â Ms. Norlin plans on completing her Associates Degree in nursing.Â The childrenâ€™s transition has been seamless because they were able to continue in the same school.
Ms. Morris came to Bridges to Housing Stability in May of 2014.Â She was physically disabled and used a wheelchair.Â While she was employed full-time, her salary was not enough to cover her rent.Â Eventually, Ms. Morris was two months late with her rent and faced eviction.
Ms. Morrisâ€™ case was referred to Bridges through the Coordinated System of Homeless Services (CSHS).Â A Bridges Housing Advocate met with Ms. Morris, listened to and learned about her individual obstacles to staying in her home. While Ms. Morris and her Housing Advocate knew that the immediate goal was to find wheelchair-accessible, affordable housing in Howard County, they also needed to find ways to ease her financial burden to prevent the situation from repeating. The Housing Advocate helped Ms. Morris navigate and succeed in the approval process for Disability benefits. Bridges was also able to pay the back rent that was preventing Ms. Morris from getting ahead financially.
The Housing Advocate recognized that Ms. Morrisâ€™ challenges did not stop there. The possibility of becoming homeless can be an extremely emotional and stressful time, and many reach out to family members. Ms. Morris did not have any support in the community, and found support from the Housing Advocate and from the Salvation Army.
After just two months of working with Bridges, Ms. Morris was in a position to save for a security deposit and first monthâ€™s rent for a new home, and is re-housed in an affordable wheelchair-accessible home in Howard County.Â Ms. Morris was able to maintain her current employment because her new home was close enough to work.Â The crisis of a potential eviction was prevented, and Ms. Morris is grateful for all that Bridges to Housing Stability did to get her to where she is now–stable in her housing.