Lack of affordable housing has forced many low-income families to turn to shelters
"We're seeing more families than we ever have at any time in our history," she said.
Downy Zuver has been a case manager at The Road Home for seven years and said there is renovation happening at the shelter to make more room for families.
"We used to experience a huge increase in families in the winter but now it is just consistent all year-round," she said. "We are just flooded with people."
Although the average length of stay has actually gone down in recent years at The Road Home, Zuver said she still sees families staying for months or longer. This is not necessarily a bad sign, however, because many times the families are waiting for a long-term program that will solve their housing needs, she said.
Families benefit more by being housed long-term in the community rather than in shelters, Norman said. This is the goal of The Road Home.
The Road Home was involved with a program called Rapid Rehousing, funded in 2009 with $4.2 million in stimulus money, but that money is now gone, Eggert said. Rapid rehousing was successful in helping homeless families in three ways:
Helping to address the crisis that caused the homelessness.
Helping the family find an affordable apartment.
Helping the family pay by providing a rent subsidy.
"(Rapid Rehousing) can be a cheaper approach that's having a lot of success," Roman said. "We are starting to see that what families really want is to be living in the community."
The transformation of shelters can provide a new and unique approach to tackling poverty, da Costa Nunez said. Because many families are staying longer, shelters are adapting. Many now provide educational and employment opportunities for both parents and children.
"They are no longer shelters. They are transitional opportunities," he said. "They are an opportunity to deal with poverty on the front lines. Now that you have everything under one roof you can make a radical right turn in dealing with poverty."
The educational training some shelters are now providing is one of the most important opportunities for the homeless, he noted.
"Education is the only thing that will get parents better employment," he said. "If you can't get a job and you have a sixth-grade literacy level, you're not going anywhere."
The Road Home is more than just a shelter, Eggert said, as its goal is to get people housed long-term.
"A shelter is a piece of the solution to end homelessness but it's not the final piece," she said. "It's important for people to understand it's a process."
Without affordable housing, however, that end goal becomes difficult to reach, Roman said.
"The bottom line is there is not enough affordable housing, and that is driving homelessness," Roman said. "Housing is not affordable to low-income families."
As Orullian sits on her bed hugging little Sage tight, she knows they are lucky to be able to call anywhere "home."
"The shelter has been so important for us," she said. "We wouldn't have anywhere else to go."
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