The Affordable Housing Crisis & How One Family Helps

 

The skyrocketing costs of housing in Boulder County is pricing out low-income families and, now, some middle class families are feeling the pinch too. Higher rent rates are forcing families to spend more on housing and less on other life essentials such as food, medical needs and transportation.

An example of a working, middle class family unable to make ends meet in Boulder County, is Sandy, a newly divorced mother with a teenage daughter. Two years ago Sandy made the brave decision to leave an abusive marriage that left her and her daughter in a tumultuous transition and homeless for a few months. Sandy was working with Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence and they referred her to SCCC for additional services to support her during this challenging transition.

SCCC held an event illustrating the dire need of affordable housing in our community. Many landlords are taking advantage of the strong rental market and increasing rents to amounts that working, low and middle-income families can just not afford. Long-time donors of SCCC, the Flannigans attended the event and decided to take action on a very personal level. They were in the process of purchasing an investment property and decided they would reserve it specifically for Section 8 Housing referrals from the Sister Carmen Community Center (In brief, a Section 8 Housing voucher guarantees the landlord a portion of the rent every month, and the tenant is required to pay the remainder that is affordable for their particular situation.) When asked why, the Flannigans replied:

We feel a responsibility to help others in our community. We don’t want to look back on our lives and say, ‘Wow, we did a really good job of setting ourselves up while not helping others.’”

When their property was ready for a tenant the Flannigans contacted SCCC for a referral. The initial aim was to provide a rental property for a family with a Section 8 Housing voucher.  However, unexpected to the Flannigan’s, SCCC was not working with a participant with a Section 8 voucher at the time. The Flannigans learned that there is a finite number of Section 8 vouchers available. Additionally, there is a multiple-year waitlist to apply for Section 8 county housing and cities only accept applications once per year by lottery.

 “Learning about Section 8 made us re-think who are the deserving poor.“  – Flannigans

Instead, SCCC referred Sandy to the Flannigans.  Sandy was selected for her demonstrated commitment to getting her finances organized, as well as vitally needing a safe place to live within close proximity to her daughter’s school. The Flannigans’ property offered all of this, and, after reconsideration about the new information they learned about Section 8, the Flannigans decided to rent their property to Sandy at an affordable rate.

“We are so grateful we could provide this for her. We would not be able to enjoy the income we receive from these properties if we were not sharing it with others. “–Flannigans

And, thanks to a low rent rate, Sandy is not faced with the monthly dilemma of choosing between buying food or paying rent.

“We hope that by sharing our experience it will inspire others to take action.” –Flannigans

 

Colorado Gives Day

Colorado Gives Day 2016 will be here before you know it! This year you can preschedule your online donation to Sister Carmen Community Center starting today!  Thank you to FirstBank and ColoradoGives.org for supporting this wonderful annual event which helps so many fantastic organizations in Colorado!

Krystal

“Believe in yourself and keep moving forward. The road blocks will move.”

Krystal’s life back in Virginia was stable and comfortable with a well-paying job, large house, nice car and everything she and her son needed. However, her life took a sudden turn when she lost her job and could no longer sustain her family.  With reluctance, Krystal decided to return to Colorado, where her mother lived, as she and her eight-year old son needed a place to stay until she could get back on her feet. Going into this situation Krystal knew that it would not be sustainable emotionally.

As a single-mom and unemployed she needed some extra help—and having nowhere else to turn—she came to Sister Carmen a year ago for food and clothing. From there, she was referred to Maryann, the Center’s onsite Mental Health Partners’ therapist, as well as to Candice, one of our Individual and Family Advocates. Candice became and essential resource for Krystal, helping her identify and strategize the short-term goals that would help Krystal achieve her aspirations of having independent housing, a stable career, and a good education for her son.

It’s nice to have support here when I don’t have it anywhere else. It has really helped encourage me…I get support from Candice that I can’t get anywhere else.

That’s one thing Sister Carmen showed me: that there are people out there who care.

The guidance Candice and Maryann were able to give Krystal helped her start to regain ground and feel more hopeful for her and her son’s futures. Still struggling to figure out how best to approach her son’s Attention Deficit Disorder, she attended our Nurturing Parent Program. These classes awakened her to the fact that she herself was not raised in a supportive environment and she had some work to do on herself to make the life changes she yearned for.

Before the Nurturing Parenting classes, my confidence and self-esteem was really low. So was my son’s. Now I have more confidence and so does my son. I’m able to give my son love and it’s changed our lives.

Krystal is very proud and profoundly moved by the changes she and her son have made together through this program. As a parent she developed a new sense of self-awareness, increased her parenting knowledge and skills, and started building, what she describes, as the first strong, solid relationship she has ever had with her son.

She also observed that as her outlook on life became more positive—as she gained confidence and more lightheartedness—she saw these same qualities reflected in her son and in his relationships with his friends and classmates.

When Krystal first came to Sister Carmen, she was disheartened and depressed. Over the course of a year, Krystal has worked extremely hard to come a long way and has a lot to be proud of. She recently graduated from a job training program with the County, and she continues to actively seek self-growth and skill-development opportunities. She optimistic that she will be able to attain safe and stable housing through the Family Self-Sufficiency program. Additionally, although currently unemployed, Krystal is determined to return to school and find a meaningful career that would allow her to remain in Boulder County, in main part so that her son can finish his education in the Boulder Valley School District.

I look at Facebook photos of my son and me together and think about where we were before. Now, my son is smiling in photos and I think, ‘it might not be perfect now, but it’s the best it’s ever been.’

Krystal now sees herself as a role model in her immediate and larger community; through her own actions and transformations, she shares with others the skills and knowledge she has found to be so valuable and life-changing. Most importantly, she is building a new relationship with herself and her son, one that will lay a strong foundation for a future where they can both realize their hopes and dreams. She now looks with confidence and optimism on her life and what she will achieve.