By Mary Nader
When Hannah came to Fishline recently, she was on the verge of homelessness. A preschool teacher making a humble income, she was living with two roommates when one decided to move. Unable to pay for their apartment, Hannah could not find low-cost housing in time, so she was facing eviction.
Mike and his wife were both working, keeping up with their mortgage and other bills, when their daughter had a serious accident and faced a long, difficult recuperation. Because one parent had to stay home to care for their daughter, the mortgage became too much, and the bank was foreclosing.
When local residents like these come to Fishline with emergency housing needs, they meet with a navigator of the Housing Solutions Center, an extension of Kitsap Community Resources located in our office. Because the navigator has access to county-wide services and housing availability, a single visit to HSC may be all that is needed to determine eligibility and find a secure home.
Sometimes, clients wait too long before they come to Fishline for help, usually because they try to resolve their predicament themselves, an admirable choice but one that can make it harder in the long run.
The goal of helping agencies like Fishline is to lessen use of short-term solutions like hotels and shelters which can often just bring temporary relief. With more permanent solutions as their goal, helpful federal efforts, like the Rapid-Rehousing Program, have been instituted to assist families in finding affordable housing, providing a link between the emergency shelter/transitional housing systems that serve homeless families and the resources that can help them rebuild their lives in permanent housing, as members of a neighborhood and a community.
There are also innovative programs being created by Fishline and its partners, such as HomeShare services that link homeowners who have extra space with screened tenants, and we hope someday to give landlords assurances so they are more willing to rent to those who may have had recent financial hardships.
One Church One Family, a group of local churches, has offered homes to eligible tenants for low rent, giving these families a chance to save money so they can move on to a more stable future.
We are enthusiastic about the progress we’re making, but we still have lots to do. Low-cost HUD housing, a viable option for those on low incomes, can be a several-year wait.
Shelters are often filled to capacity. When this happens, the best we can offer is a blanket and a safe place to park overnight as an alternative to a warm bed.
Richard LeMieux, author of “Breakfast at Sally’s,” will speak at Gateway Church this weekend, and he will share his observations from a vantage point not many of us see — what it’s like to have no place to call home.
As we approach the season of wind and rain, we renew our commitment to a community where every family will have a warm place to rest, and we welcome your help.
— Mary Nader is executive director of North Kitsap Fishline. Contact her at email@example.com.