Detours don’t deter a mom along her path to a stable home

Published: June 29, 2016

A program supported by Building Changes leaps into action to help a mother secure a steady job and keep her family housed.

Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) is an established practice used throughout the country to help homeless families quickly find their own housing with the help of short-term rental subsidies. Building Changes has long advocated that employment must be a core focus of any RRH program, so that parents can earn the income they need to keep their family housed once subsidies end. Over the past decade, Building Changes has supported a number of innovative pilots that integrate housing and employment services, including the Launch into Employment Assistance Program (LEAP) in Pierce County. Here is one family’s story.

Mom and daughter

Renee* and her adolescent daughter fled their home to escape domestic violence. Through a Rapid Re-Housing program designed to get homeless families housed quickly, they eventually landed a small apartment. But how would Renee pay for it without a job and steady income?

Renee figured re-entering the job market as a nursing assistant was her best shot. LEAP helped place her at a caregiver facility, but balancing that physically grueling job with caring for her daughter was more than she could bear. The loss of job income eventually resulted in the loss of her apartment.

With Renee needing more than one attempt to find steady employment and a stable home, LEAP jumped into action with caring counsel and relentless resolve. The LEAP program offers job search, placement and retention services to parents who are transitioning their families out of homelessness. It is built on the idea that parents who earn income through steady employment are better positioned to secure and sustain stable housing for their families—and not return to homelessness.

Kaitlyn Hanson, a LEAP practitioner for Career Path Services, sat Renee down for a frank chat about what work she realistically could handle. Housecleaning offered a flexible schedule but not reliable hours. A live-in caregiver job provided rent-free housing but little family privacy. With Hanson bird-dogging Renee’s situation, Renee eventually landed a full-time job as a casino hostess. LEAP has provided financial assistance to have her uniform cleaned and buy supplies like cosmetics—little things that have helped Renee stay confident at her job.

“Trying to find and settle into housing and employment at the same time is a lot,” Hanson says. “Any of that load that we can take off of someone, we will.”

LEAP places a high priority on job retention. Under the model, an employment specialist continues to work with a client for 120 days after job placement to address any issues that could jeopardize the new job.

With money she saved while staying at a friend’s place, Renee put a deposit down on a new apartment and she and her daughter moved into their new home during the last weekend of April. “There were times I wanted to give up, but I kept going and persevered,” she says. “The bad days are behind me now. I see only good things ahead for me and my daughter.”

(*The mother’s name in this story was changed to protect her privacy.)

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