Local organization helps near homeless families stay in their homes

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Assistance is on the way to help local families stay in their homes.

Until recently, local homeless advocates were only able to help families once they were already out on the streets. But now, a federal grant of $6.7 million dollars is giving the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Continuum of Care for the Homeless, or CoC, a big boost; helping families before they become a statistic. It's called the Homeless Prevention Program, and it's all about preventing local families from becoming homeless in the first place.

Known as Renee to her family, one Cincinnati native asked us not to reveal her identity.

"When they say you're just a paycheck away from being homeless, it's true," Renee said. "It's reality."

it's a reality this single mother of four said she knows too well.

"Hours cut back on the job. Transportation broke down, and now we're homeless," Renee said.

Renee said she used to work 50 to 60 hours in the nursing field -- earning $13/hr.  She says her hours were cut back, and now she works about 12 hours a week

Renee said she brings home about $80 a week from her job at a nursing home, and lives with relatives. She says she's called everyone for help, but can't get any because she isn't considered homeless. Local advocates said it's an all-too common story.

"According to HUD, someone living doubled up isn't technically homeless, and so we could never assist them before," said CoC Homeless Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Coordinator Meradith Alspaugh. "But now we can help them with this new {federal stimulus} money."

Now, those nearly homeless can call a hotline here at the Continuum of Care office in Cincinnati, explain their situation, and then if approved, receive up to $2,000 dollars in assistance and three months of counseling. The non-profit has partnered with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

"We might pay their full $500 rent for five months plus additional money for their utilities," said CoC Executive Director Kevin Finn. "So this is a much more comprehensive service."

In the last three months, the organization has helped about 150 local families.

Now, Renee is hoping her family can be one, too.

"I'm trying to find a word for that," Renee said. "What would it be like? It would be a miracle."

The CoC said this program is only for renters, not those who own a home.

The hotline is 513-381-SAFE. It's open 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekends.

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