June 8, 2021
Imagine living without a place to call home. Now imagine doing it while also taking care of a child. Women and children can sometimes be the forgotten faces of homelessness. Unfortunately, they are often the most vulnerable populations in our community.
According to United Way’s most recent ALICE report, nearly 80% of female-headed households with children in Whatcom County are not making ends meet.
Because you may not know about every program that benefits from United Way funding, we wanted to highlight some of these agencies and their work. Today we are proud to feature Lydia Place, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing and wraparound support for families who are struggling financially.
The housing system is very complex and can be hard to navigate. Most people aren’t familiar with how it works or where a person or family might go when they are in need of support. Trying to get help can be intimidating or overwhelming for someone in crisis with very few resources at their disposal. This is where organizations like Lydia Place step in to play a critical role.
Lydia Place was established in 1989 by a group of women who recognized a need for safe and stable housing for women with children in our community. Since then, Lydia Place has expanded its capacity and diversified its programming to meet the increasing needs in our community. Lydia Place provides much more than a safe place to live. Families and individuals in their four housing programs receive intensive, ongoing case management support to help them meet their short and long-term goals related to housing, finances, education, employment, physical and mental health, parenting, and community connectedness.
There is no such thing as a typical Lydia Place client. There are so many reasons and circumstances that can cause someone to lose housing. That’s why it’s important to recognize housing as a vital first step towards sustained independence.
Here’s one example of how Lydia Place helped a local mom build a better life for her and her son.
Five years ago, Stacy was living in a shelter, working hard to meet the requirements set by Child Protective Services (CPS) to have her young son returned to her. She had become CPS involved when she was evicted from a subsidized housing program and became homeless, struggling with an alcohol addiction and trying to get away from an abusive partner.
Stacy went to treatment and got sober, committing deeply to her treatment goals. She also worked hard to set boundaries with her ex-partner, whose abuse had been the primary cause of her losing her housing. CPS recognized her efforts, returned her son to her care, and eventually closed her CPS case. Despite finally being reunited with her son and feeling safe for the first time in a long while, Stacy was facing a housing debt of over $3,000, had poor credit, and very little income. She felt stuck in the shelter and could not see how to move forward.
When a space came available in the Lydia Place Family Services Program, Stacy jumped at the chance for a fresh start. She began working as many hours as was possible, working at a local retailer and cleaning for a motel. She met with her case manager weekly and continued to follow through with her treatment goals. She met with the owner of the available unit, sharing her story and the progress she had made. After talking with her, the landlord made the decision to override her poor credit and property debt and allowed her to rent from him with support from Lydia Place. Stacy met with her case manager weekly, pouring over her budget, asking for support in communicating with her neighbors and landlord, and doing everything she could to “do it right this time.”
It was important to Stacy to pay off her debt and repair her credit. She began a payment plan and eventually paid off her rental debt to the previous landlord, while continuing to pay rent for her current unit on time.
Stacy has a full-time job working for a reliable employer. After years of working evenings and weekends, she now works Monday through Friday and can spend quality time with her son, who has special needs and requires a significant level of care. She is in her second year of the Parents as Teacher’s program and has collaborated with her home visitor to help her son transition smoothly into kindergarten and build healthy communication with his teaching and support team at school. Stacy also recently passed her driving test and is looking forward to further increasing her financial opportunities and independence.
Issues like homelessness are multifaceted and require addressing root causes from a variety of angles. Here are just a few ways Lydia Place is working toward solutions:
Safe and stable families lead to safe and stable communities. But no one organization can do it alone.
Solving complex problems requires a community effort.
United Way unites Whatcom County around common goals and connects local nonprofits who share the vision of a compassionate community where everyone has a home and the opportunity to thrive. By funding a variety of programs working to provide basic needs, increase economic mobility, and break the cycle of poverty in Whatcom County, United Way is helping to pave the way for financial stability for everyone in our community.