Julie Aderhold, the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Partnership for Housing (EPH), made a presentation about EPH during the Sunday Adult Study time on January 5. The comprehensiveness of EPH’s care for families trying to make their way out of homelessness is very impressive.
The homeless families EPH serves come from
· the community at large,
· from the only local homeless shelter open for families (Freedom House),
· and from Golden House and House of Hope (the local shelters for victims of domestic abuse and homeless young parents and their children).
What causes homelessness in Brown County is similar to what causes homelessness nationwide:
· low wage jobs*
· the lack of affordable housing,
· the lack of affordable childcare and transportation needed so people can work**,
· the need for mental health care,
· and the lack of support and skills to get and keep jobs and homes that are often not learned by people growing up in poorer families.
*62% of jobs available in Wisconsin do not pay wages anywhere near high enough for a family of four to meet the “Household Survival Budget” (HSB) identified by the United Way as a budget for basic needs including:
· “housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, technology, and taxes.”
· The Household Survival Budget was developed by the United Way as part of its “ALICE Reports” and includes no savings for retirement or health or home – care emergencies of any kind.
· The wage needed to cover the HSB for a family of four is almost $32 an hour.
· Because of low-paying jobs, 37.5% of Wisconsin households are either living at the Federal poverty level or cannot meet the HSB.
**Julie Aderhold told a story about how Spokes for Folks, an organization that will be supported by the Gathered in Faith Together service to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., provided a bicycle for a father in EPH housing who had to work shifts not served by public transportation. Yes, he rides a bicycle across the west side to work. In the winter. The Dr. King service will be held on Monday, January 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Resurrection Catholic Church.
EPH partners with the Salvation Army, its 20 member churches (including founding member Grace), and volunteers to ensure the safety and stability of homeless families and to guide them to solutions which make them self-sufficient. On average, families stay 10 months in one of EPH’s 33 rent-free housing units to work on
· financial planning,
· debt reduction,
· health needs,
· educational goals,
· and emotional and spiritual needs.
EPH’s homes are clean, functional, and safe, so families can focus on getting their feet on the ground again.
EPH offers two other slightly different programs. In one program, families above the poverty level but not making enough to cover a Household Survival Budget, live in EPH housing and pay gradually increasing amounts of rent and utilities over the course of an average of 24 months as a way of helping them establish a more self-sufficient future. In the other more recently established program, families who are in danger of becoming homeless receive care from a caseworker to help them avoid homelessness including:
· determining the family’s eligibility for various kinds of government assistance,
· making six-month goals,
· making a budget,
· and sometimes receiving some financial assistance from EPH.
Julie Aderhold concluded her presentation emphasizing how faith drives the EPH ministry and all its partners, member churches, and volunteers: faith that is about loving real neighbors. EPH cannot be a substitute for government assistance programs; people in EPH housing do also rely on a variety of government programs.
There are no higher laws for followers of Jesus than to love God and our neighbors: EPH is a great way to be a faithful follower of Jesus by restoring the lives of homeless and potentially homeless families who live in a place and time where there are a lot of factors working against their success and happiness. There’s an average of 100 families waiting for help EPH. EPH is waiting for help from people of faith. Like you.