RALEIGH, N.C. — Providing homeless families with a temporary place to live and equipping them with the tools they need to sustain themselves in permanent housing has been a work in progress for Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Launched in 1994, the nonprofit teams with 60 religious congregations that together provide emergency shelter for about 75 families a year, or 10 families at any given time, with the agency providing support services for those families at a day center at its administrative offices at 903 Method Road in Raleigh.
But after the families graduate from the temporary shelter and move into permanent housing, the agency has found, they often cannot keep themselves in that housing, says Lisa Williams, executive director at Wake Interfaith.
So in August 2008, the agency launched an “after-care” program that continues the support services it provides for families living in the emergency housing the congregations provide.
And in January, the agency opened a “transitional-housing” facility in an apartment building it purchased in January 2010 next door to its offices.
The new facility includes 12 units, each of which has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and is expected to serve 12 to 16 families a year.
“The idea is to serve families who, even if they may be able to obtain permanent housing and leave emergency shelter, don’t have the skills and tools to be able to maintain the permanent housing,” Williams says.
Families are expected to stay nine months to a year in the transitional housing, compared to eight to 12 weeks for a typical stay in emergency housing.
The addition of the transitional-housing facility bucks the trend represented by a shift in federal policy away from funding transitional and emergency housing in favor of a “housing first” model that aims to “put people into housing and then worry about services,” Williams says.
But Wake Interfaith continues to see “families needing the services that go with the housing, which is why we chose to start a transitional housing program when transitional housing programs are decreasing.”
The agency, which operates with an annual budget of $435,000 and a staff of six people, purchased the apartment building for $875,000 with a bridge loan from donors David Beam, founder and majority owner of J.D. Beam, a general contractor in Raleigh, and his wife, Elizabeth Beam.
The city of Raleigh and Wake County, in turn, made 30-year loans to Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network, each covering half the bridge loan.
The city and county loans require no mortgage payments or interest as long as the agency continues to use the facility to provide housing for low-income families.