A hotel is often the last stop before a family facing homelessness hits the shelter or the streets. Now, due to the pandemic and resulting economic downturn, many families are at risk of losing this housing of last resort, as Mark Robinson highlighted in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article last month.
Thanks to a $500,000 Community Innovation Grant from the Robins Foundation, Housing Families First and the Richmond Public Schools Family Support Center created the Bringing Families Home program to help families precariously housed in hotels or overcrowded situations move into permanent homes. The program was slated to begin in July 2020, but the pandemic has brought urgent needs to our community.
Funders for Housing and Opportunity is providing a grant in response to COVID-19 so that this vitally important housing program can begin immediately. Staff from the RPS Family Support Center, as well as the Henrico County Public Schools McKinney-Vento Office, may refer students and their families struggling to sustain hotel stays to Housing Families First (HFF). We can then provide one-time financial assistance to facilitate leasing an apartment, as well as housing search help and housing counseling provided by our newly-hired School Housing Navigator. Destiny Hunter, a Housing Families First and Homeless Crisis Line staffer for the past 18 months, has been tapped to take on this new role.
Our housing-focused pandemic response, made possible by Funders for Housing and Opportunity and individual donors, will wind down just as the Bringing Families Home project ramps up for the 2020-2021 school year, providing an opportunity for a continued partnership with the RPS Family Support Center. Over a third of RPS students in housing transition are chronically absent due to illness, suspensions, frequent moves, and parental stress. The Robins Foundation Community Innovation Grant will provide the resources for Housing Families First to move over 400 RPS students and their families from motel rooms and friends’ couches into a home of their own over the next three years. We’re ready to get started!