The program targets a growing population of homeless families who are struggling to secure employment because of the instability caused by not having a home. While these families are receiving help in training and searching for a new job, their top priority each night is finding a place to sleep.
Families are eligible for housing assistance through the new program if they are homeless and enrolled in the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. The program includes families who lack a fixed and regular nighttime residence, who are in a shelter or in budget motels, and, among other scenarios, on the streets.
Abode Services is using its inventory of affordable housing, relationships with property owners, and more than two decades of experience re-housing people to help these families. The nonprofit is the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading provider of services to individuals and families without a home.
The housing assistance families receive includes financial aid for housing expenses such as rent assistance, security deposits, utility payments, and moving costs. Abode Services also helps families locate affordable housing units and connects them to other services as needed such as childcare, behavioral health services, and credit counseling and repair services.
State legislators approved the creation of the CalWORKs Housing Support Program this fiscal year to address the growing difficulty families with children face in finding affordable places to live. The expansion included a $1.5 million grant to the Santa Clara County Social Service Agency CalWORKs division to help transition families from homelessness into homes.
Santa Clara County Social Service Agency CalWORKs division selected Abode Services in October to administer the program and the nonprofit began helping Santa Clara County families in November.
The need for assistance cannot be overstated. At last count, in 2013, at least 1,067 individuals in families were homeless on a given night in Santa Clara County. In addition, the number of families enrolled in CalWORKs and who utilize homeless services, such as spending a night in a shelter or receiving rental assistance, continues to rise. In FY14, 855 families utilized homeless services while also receiving CalWORKs benefits, a nearly 70 percent increase from 2011.
“Too many families in Santa Clara County are trying to get by without a home. They’re moving from location to location living on couches, in budget motels, and on the streets as they try to find or maintain employment,” said Abode Services Executive Director Louis Chicoine. “We’re glad we can help ease the burden on this vulnerable population by helping to provide stability through a home they can afford and by connecting families to the services that can keep them housed.”
Abode Services helps families in the program develop housing stability plans that create a framework for them to work towards self-sufficiency. Plans include the family’s potential barriers to housing stability and identify ways the family can address those needs.
Plans can include referrals to food assistance programs, personal financial planning services, and substance use treatment, employment and CalWORKs services. The plans also identify who in the family is responsible for what action and sets timelines for completion of an action.
Abode Services reviews the plans with family members every three months with an expectation that a family works towards contributing more towards housing expenses after each review.
The program’s goal is to help families become self-sufficient.
Continued funding for the program beyond June 30, 2015 requires approval from the state.