Prevention is key
| November 14, 2010 8:00 PM
COEUR d'ALENE - It could be worse, much worse.
But a new program offered by St. Vincent de Paul is saving families from falling through the cracks and hitting the street.
In its first year, it's saved 375 North Idahoans from winding up without a home.
"It's easy to dwell on all the negative things," said St. Vincent de Paul Director Jeff Conroy. "But there really are a lot good things happening out there."
The federal Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program saves families by paying back rent and other bills, before finances spiral out of control and they could lose their place.
Funded by $854,000 in federal stimulus money, it can't go to mortgages, only rent.
Not only cheaper than trying to rescue people after they've become homeless, the program is practical. Maintaining homeless numbers isn't the goal; the true mission is to end it.
"Bad things happen to good people," Conroy said, on the rut people can get in financially between jobs or after unexpected expenses arise. "I know I say that over and over again, but it really is true."
When the city of Coeur d'Alene did its 10-year-plan to end homelessness it found that providers in Kootenai County spent $6.5 million on homeless services.
Since the grant, it's rescued 81 households - 237 people - from losing their homes at a cost of $2,094 per household. The Rapid Rehousing part, which puts them in temporary homes as those people establish budgets and get back on their feet, has helped 138 people, or 54 households, get back on their financial feet.
Once those people are caught up, the program "graduates" them, and they're back to being self-sufficient, which is the key to ending, not maintaining, homeless numbers.
"We're not just helping them through right now," Conroy said. "We're helping them through the long run."