Equitable Housing Navigation Grant Helps BIPOC Families Maintain Housing
Over the past year, our country, our community and Share as an agency have had an opportunity to take a hard look at our practices through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. For Share that has meant strengthening our Share E-team, focusing on how we can improve our internal policies, re-working our mission statement and most recently applying for funds to better serve our families of color living in Share Homestead and Share Orchards Inn.
At Share, we recognize that we are part of this problem, as structural racism in the U.S. housing and social services systems have contributed to stark and persistent racial disparities. We must continue to develop the flexibility to adapt our programs with a focus on meeting the specific needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). We expect the families whom we serve to be experts on their own lives. Our Share E-team is part of this process, as we seek help from community experts to grow and improve our services for the diverse people we serve.
A new grant awarded to Share through Building Changes, called Equitable Housing Navigation, can now help by providing financial support to BIPOC families as they exit our shelters and move into their new home.
Flexible funds of this grant can support in a variety of ways, such as helping people fix their cars, buying furniture and paying for medical and dental costs or childcare. Our goal is to help families of color have brief experiences with homelessness. This includes families like Abby* and her four young children.
Despite Abby’s 30-hour a week job at a fast-food restaurant, the family budget was extremely tight and they lost their apartment at which they had lived for more than five years. She and her children first entered the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelter at St. Andrew Lutheran Church and ultimately Share Homestead.
“This is a Chuukese family. Abby is humble, quiet, very attentive to her children, loyal to her family and hard working. She stayed committed, maintaining her employment and navigating childcare through her husband, who currently live with them, and his family. This often meant 16-hour days by the time she dropped the kids off, went to work, picked them up, and returned to the shelter,” shared Nicky Ferguson, Family Pathways Program Director.
Staff encouraged her to obtain a new housing assessment through Council for the Homeless, while they helped her secure new identification documents with grant funds. “We stayed focused on finding housing that would fit her needs and income, and we did not waiver from that goal,” said Chris Armstrong, Housing Navigator.
Through Second Step Housing, Abby found an opening in an affordable housing unit for a brand new three-bedroom townhome. A Housing Choice Voucher helped her secure the apartment and grant funds covered the move-in costs and first month’s rent.
Staff were also able to help Abby improve her health. She was suffering from daily headaches, due to high blood pressure, but had no medical coverage. Staff connected her to the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington and grant
funds allowed her to purchase her medication.
Nicky described the joyful day that Abby’s family moved out of shelter. “When it came time to move into the new housing, she came to the office and thanked us with tears in her eyes: ‘I am so grateful for what you all have done for me and my family. I will never forget you. Thank you.’ ”
This funding is meant to be flexible and adaptive to the individual needs of the people served. Its effective use will require creativity on the part of our staff and active listening for the barriers that people of color experience. This will involve surveys of our clients and staff, both pre- and post-funding, and examining the framework of our staff as we hire new employees, ensuring that people of color are also represented on our team.
*Name changed to preserve anonymity.
Click here to download a PDF version of the 2021 Summer Edition of Sharing Lives to read all the stories from this quarter.