Staggering Statistics: Many families one bill away from homelessness

Published 9:07 am Thursday, April 28, 2022

By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

On the day that her third child was born with severe health issues, Julie (not her real name) began a chapter of her life that she never imagined having to write.

The single mom had a good job, but medical expenses and time away from work caring for a sick child caused her to get behind on rent. With nowhere to go, the family lived with family/friends until entering the Family Promise of Davie County shelter program.

After 98 days in the shelter, Julie’s family was able to once again move into their own home.

With more than 40% of Americans a $400 expense away from financial distress, it is no wonder that families now make up the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. And it is an invisible crisis that affects our own community; 106 students in Davie County Schools have been identified this year as experiencing homelessness.

“To most people, homelessness is encampments, mental illness, and substance abuse,” said Lisa Foster, executive director of Family Promise of Davie County. “However, in small rural communities like ours, it’s usually families living in budget motels, their cars, or doubled up with family or friends.”

On Thursday, April 28, Family Promise of Davie County (FPDC) will host Family Promise Giving Day, a 24-hour online campaign to raise awareness and funds to support local families, like Julie’s, who are experiencing homelessness.

“This year, we’re asking you to ‘Give an Hour’ to Family Promise, whether that be a donation of an hour of your salary or an hour of your attention to learn more about Family Promise and the 3 million children who experience homelessness every year in America.”

Preventing families from spiraling into homelessness is an essential part of the Family Promise mission.

Since opening its doors in 2017, FPDC has served over 1,000 parents and children through its shelter, transitional housing, and emergency financial assistance programs.

“Our mission is to help families experiencing homelessness and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. We help families through the provision of shelter, financial assistance, and case management.”

It’s proven to be a highly successful approach. According to Foster:    

• 94% of families in the  shelter and transitional housing programs obtain independent/permanent housing within 12 weeks;

• 90% of families in the shelter and transitional housing programs are still housed one year after graduating from our program; and

• on average, it costs $800 to prevent homelessness and divert a family from the shelter.

Low wages and a lack of affordable housing exacerbate the problem. She shared the following statistics:

There is no state, even those where the minimum wage has been set above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, where a minimum-wage worker working 40-hours per week can afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market price.

In Davie County, a minimum-wage worker would need to work nearly 88 hours per week to afford the average rent of $825.

Realistically, a single person in Davie County would need to earn at least $15.87/hour ($33,000/year), and more if they have children. Unfortunately, the average salary for workers in childcare is $25,130; food prep & service, $25,770; retail sales, $26,580; healthcare, $30,020; and construction, $32,940.

Housing is the greatest expense for most families, and should not exceed 30% of a family’s budget. 2021 statistics from the N.C. Housing Coalition indicate that 21% of Davie households are cost-burdened by housing, with 34% of renters and 18% percent of homeowners struggling to afford their homes.

“If families are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, which we often see that they are, one seemingly minor setback can cause a major crisis. Missing a couple of days of work to care for a sick child or having car troubles can spiral into something so much larger.”

Family Promise has challenged each local affiliate to raise $10,000 through the Day of Giving to help these families in need. Since FPDC hasn’t been able to hold an in-person fundraiser since 2019, the money is needed now more than ever.

“All funding raised during Giving Day will go directly to serving and supporting local families experiencing housing crises. It is our goal to provide services at every level of the housing crisis- preventing homelessness in the first place, diverting a family from the shelter if possible, providing safe shelter, and ongoing support to help maintain stability for those that regain housing.”

“Join us on April 28 in the fight against family homelessness. You can donate online at https://www.fpgives.org/organizations/family-promise-of-davie-county or make a check out to Family Promise of Davie County and mail it to POBox 1536 Mocksville.”

To learn more about Family Promise of Davie County and its programs, visit https://www.familypromisedc.org/what-we-do or call (336) 284-4200.