It’s widely known that the high price of rent in Dane county leaves many working families one crisis away from eviction, or having to choose between rent and food. The recommended percentage that families should pay in rent or housing, for a healthy financial balance, is 30% of their income. For the working poor in Dane county, the percentage they pay ranges from 50 to 70%. Eviction and people losing their housing is a primary cause of poverty. Losing housing can undo years of small incremental progress towards stability and well-being. Losing housing often means people also lose employment, school, and possessions, and causes added risk to physical health and safety. Lack of housing stability is a key factor disrupting education for kids; even anxiety about possibly losing housing can be a major factor. Housing stabilization is one of the most effective and cost-effective interventions that can help people escape poverty. It is far cheaper and simpler to intervene before a family loses their housing – to keep them in housing – than it is after they have already lost it.
St. Dunstan’s has been supporting stable housing for families associated with Falk Elementary School, our partner school, by administering a fund for eviction prevention. We provide up to $200 to help with rent or security deposits. The school social worker lets us know when a check is needed, and we send it directly to the landlord. The school social worker recently told us, “Our school homelessness rate is truly being impacted by our housing work.” That’s wonderful news!
The Outreach Committee recently committed funds to another opportunity to support housing stability. On Sunday, January 28, Sarah Shatz, who coordinates support for low-income families in Middleton and beyond as part of the Dane County program Joining Forces for Families, visited St. Dunstan’s and told us about a program she’s been overseeing. Last year, Sarah received a grant which allowed her to provide rental assistance of $200 a month, for a full year, to several families. St. Dunstan’s Outreach Committee has decided to commit funds to continue the rent support for one of those households for a second year. Sarah, who is working closely with this household, believes this support will help them build a cushion and have the confidence and security to pursue opportunities that could lead to greater income and stability.
If supporting housing stability is important to you, here are a few ways you can contribute. We are happy to accept donations to the Falk School Eviction Prevention Fund that St. Dunstan’s holds and administers. Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) also does eviction prevention work with clients, and I’m sure gifts would be welcome. Other ideas are welcome!