Hope for the holidays

More families need help staying in their homes this holiday season, and many will depend on social service organizations like The Salvation Army for support.

For the most vulnerable families, just one unfortunate event can lead to homelessness. A costly car repair or missing a day of work because they lack childcare, for instance, could leave them unable to pay the rent and snowball into eviction.

Eviction moratoria are ending, putting an estimated 750,000to over one million householdsacross the country at risk of becoming homeless during the holiday season. The federal government’s $47 billion in emergency rental assistance has not reached people fast enough or been given out evenly nationwide. Only about 11 percent of rental assistance funds have been distributed, leaving many families fearful of being evicted.3 But organizations like The Salvation Army are ramping up efforts to keep people housed by providing assistance with rent and utility bills, as well as food and holiday gifts.

“Especially in frontline, low paying jobs, there’s no vacation pay or sick leave, so people don’t have that luxury of being able to actually take time off and take care of their families,” says Kristen Baluyot, Denver Metro Social Services Director for The Salvation Army.

The organization recently helped a newly laid-off, single mother of two children with disabilities to get out of the shelter system and into a home of their own. The Salvation Army also ensured the move would be seamless, providing the family with necessities from personal care items to clothes to mattresses. The mother, a Navy veteran, has since been able to return to work part time. Moreover, as the family gets back on their feet, they can take comfort in knowing they will have The Salvation Army’s support, whether it would be to find a job or pay a utility bill.4 “That way, they won’t lose their housing again,” Baluyot says.

With support from local donors — including funds dropped into The Salvation Army’s red kettles — the country’s largest provider of non-governmental relief will help as many families as possible have a warm and safe home this holiday season and beyond. “The funds raised from kettles not only go to support Christmas, but also to support social services in each local area,” Baluyot says. “If somebody were to call The Salvation Army corps community center in March needing a month of rent assistance, they are going to be able to say ‘yes’ because the community is so generous.”

Creating permanent solutions

The number of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has been growing for the past four years, but the pandemic has worsened the problem. In 2020,5 there were more single adults living outside than in shelters for the first time since the U.S. government began its annual count of the nation’s homeless population. As of October 11, 2021, roughly 4.67 million Americans said they are very likely to face eviction over the next two months because of non-payment.

In communities, such as Charlotte, N.C., the need for assistance that existed before the pandemic is only continuing to intensify. On top of the economic pressures brought on by the crisis, Charlotte faces a severe lack of affordable housing, especially for the lowest-income households. But throughout the pandemic, many community members have been able to depend on The Salvation Army, which has reached 50 percent more people than usual since the outbreak of Covid-19.5 Led by Deronda Metz, Greater Charlotte Social Services Director for The Salvation Army, the corps leased a hotel so that they could provide shelter for up to 100 additional families, while maintaining their Center of Hope shelter that serves 250 single women and veterans every night. For Salvation Army corps across the country, the goal is always “for homelessness to be rare, brief and nonrecurring,” Metz says. “Getting someone housed is just a first step. They need the tools to be able to continue moving forward.”

Those tools — everything from rental subsidies to job training and skills development — can ultimately help families keep their jobs, earn more income and stay in their homes. And keeping people housed is much less expensive and traumatic than finding them a new place to live. Eviction can lead to lasting financial and emotional trauma for individuals and their communities, damaging people’s credit scores and forcing children to change schools, which can make them more likelyto fall behind. In Denver, The Salvation Army has a longstanding partnership with Denver Public Schools to identify students and families in need. If a family loses their home, Baluyot’s team works to “keep them in their school district or as close as possible, and keep them stably or permanently housed, so they can keep their children in school,” she says.

Contributing to hope during a difficult holiday season

The holidays have long been central to The Salvation Army’s mission. In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee had promised to provide meals for 1,000 of San Francisco’s poorest residents; he placed a pot at the Ferry Landing that soon filled with enough funds to feed the hungry. Less than a decade later, kettles had cropped up in Boston and New York City. Today, the organization assists more than 4.5 millionpeople in the U.S. during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

The Salvation Army has always managed to rise to the challenge during the holidays, but it faces an especially difficult U.S. economic landscape now: as of October 11, roughly 4.67 million Americans said they are very likely to face eviction over the next two months because of non-payment and 63 percent are living paycheck to paycheck.8 “And if people can’t pay for the basics, they definitely can’t buy their children presents or feel the joy that comes with Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Baluyot says. That’s why this year in particular, The Salvation Army urgently needs support from donors to meet needs on the ground.

“Nationwide, the Salvation Army estimates it will need an additional $175 million — almost 50 percent more than raised through red kettles in 2020 — to keep Americans in their homes this holiday season,” [and beyond] said Commissioner Kenneth Hodder, National Commander of The Salvation Army.

For the record number of Americans who have sought The Salvation Army’s help for the first time due to the pandemic, donations can make all the difference. The Salvation Army has already spent more than $200 million in direct financial assistance to help people stay in their homes this year and received more requests for financial assistance in the first six months of 2021 than in all of 2020.

Along with financial support for rental and bill-pay assistance, donations support the organization’s homeless shelters and permanent supportive housing. The Angel Tree programprovides new clothes and toys for one million children whose parents might otherwise have to choose between paying rent or buying holiday gifts. Each of those programs needs support right now.

“Although the holidays should be a time of joy for everyone, millions of our neighbors need a hand up to ensure that hope marches on this holiday season,” says Hodder.

To help make a lasting impact, visit Give.SalvationArmyUSA.org

  1. 1https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-08-30/goldman-sees-750-000-evictions-in-u-s-as-bans-come-to-an-end
  2. Via Salvation Army National Commander, Commissioner Kenneth Hodder
  3. Via Tori Jaworski, Public Relations Manager, The Salvation Army Intermountain Division
  4. https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/brighten-the-holidays/
  5. https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978244891/hud-growth-of-homelessness-during-2020-was-devastating-even-before-the-pandemic
  6. https://www.the74million.org/changing-schools-can-make-or-break-a-student-but-the-wave-of-post-covid-mobility-may-challenge-the-systems-in-ways-weve-never-seen/
  7. https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/red-kettle-history/
  8. https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/brighten-the-holidays/
  9. https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/walmart-angel-tree/

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