Since our inception in 1998, we have offered temporary housing to hundreds of families using the overnight rotational shelter model known as Canopy. While homelessness continues to be a prevalent issue for families, long-term sustainability of the program from a space, volunteer, and financial perspective has become increasingly challenging. Additionally, we believe that the best solution to family homelessness is to prevent it and keep families stably housed.
For these reasons, Growing Home will be phasing out the Canopy program at the end of 2019 and transitioning to a best practice that addresses housing instability and displacement. This approach will allow us to help vulnerable households maintain stable housing before homelessness occurs. This move is not taken lightly, as Canopy is our founding program; however, it is in the best interest of our mission and organization, and will allow for greater future impact.
Opportunity for Greater Impact
Growing Home is committed to providing a continuum of basic needs in a participant centered approach so families can overcome obstacles to build lifelong stability, resiliency, and healthy habits. We served over 2,000 families in 2018 through a holistic approach to breaking the cycle of poverty in the north metro Denver area. Of these families, the Canopy program served a total of 20 families (64 individuals), and 72% of families exited the program into stable permanent housing.
Through the homelessness prevention program, we were able to work with 48 families (178 individuals) and ensure they remained stably housed in their own communities, preserving vital social connections for families, and avoiding gaps in education by keeping children in their neighborhood schools. We believe that primary prevention of homelessness represents the most sustainable path forward and will produce better long-term outcomes for more families.
Growing Home’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy
There are many factors influencing homelessness, and each family’s situation is unique. “In the past decade (2008-18), the average Colorado home price increased 77 percent, while the state’s median income went up just 4.5 percent. As a result, nearly half of all renters in Colorado (45 percent) are now housing cost burdened. So are about one in five homeowners (19 percent). More than a tenth of Coloradans (11 percent) is severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their household income on housing costs.” (Colorado Health Institute (2019) Home Equity: A Vision of Housing Security, Health and Opportunity.)
A homelessness prevention strategy will provide a wide variety of supports to families on the brink of becoming homeless or who are already experiencing homelessness (e.g. living on a friend or family member’s couch) and will help avoid the need to enter a shelter. This change will produce impactful services that will keep families stably housed, avoid gaps in education by keeping children in schools, and prevent the financial and emotional trauma that accompanies eviction.
Growing Home’s homelessness prevention program will provide a wide variety of supports, including:
- Flexible short-term financial assistance to offset needs/barriers that could lead to homelessness (e.g. car repairs, medical assistance)
- Eviction prevention services, including education on tenants’ rights and connection to pro bono legal services for eviction cases
- Housing navigation assistance, including connections, and developing relationships with more permanent housing solutions (e.g. landlords who accept section 8 vouchers, housing providers, and priority vouchers for Section 8 vouchers through Unison Housing Partners)
- Service navigation and connection to other resources, including a robust set of wrap-around services to address the needs of all family members, i.e. benefits enrollment and connection to childcare, workforce, education, and mental health services
- Follow-up services and targeted support to keep families stabilized and in their homes
Growing Home will use research-based screening to ensure direct assistance will have the greatest possible long-term impact by identifying families that are most at risk of homelessness, taking some of the guesswork out of determining which vulnerable households will eventually become homeless. We firmly believe that investing in this strategy will be more stabilizing for families and contribute to our long-term goals of strong and resilient families in thriving and equitable communities.
Organizational Health and Future Direction
We remain strong and eager to launch into the next phase of strengthening families, nurturing children, and connecting community and are well-positioned to help guide children and their families on a path to a brighter future. Thank you for walking this path with us as we build a more thriving and equitable north metro Denver area, one family at a time.
A special thank you goes out to all our past and current Canopy host and support sites, coordinators, volunteers, and supporters over the past 21 year. As always, we appreciate the generous support you have given us and ask that you consider helping us make this transition.
If you would like additional information or would like to hear about opportunities to get involved, please contact our President & CEO, Karen Fox Elwell, at 720-407-1974 or firstname.lastname@example.org.