All it took was one medical crisis for the “Smith” family to lose their income and their apartment. In September, 2012, Mr. “Smith” suffered a seizure severe enough for him to lose his job as a truck driver. The family was able to get emergency help in the form of food stamps; however, they were unable to continue making their rent payments. Fortunately, in October, Mr. Smith found a job in a local plant nursery. The couple applied to Queen Anne’s County Housing and Community Services for help and through the Emergency Services Grant Program (ESG) they received $500 toward their first month’s rent in a less expensive apartment and were rehoused by November 1, 2013.
The ESG Program also provided funds to assist the “Davis” family when they suffered the sudden death of Mr. Davis, a husband and father of two teenaged boys. The family was in imminent risk of losing their apartment due to loss of income, but a $500 emergency assistance payment provided enough help to keep them housed.
Employees of the Queen Anne’s County Division of Housing and Community Services with the Department of Community Services (DHCS) know the extent of poverty within the community. Victoria Petrie, Housing Program Administrator, is responsible for the intake and qualification of applicants for the homeless prevention programs. The programs help prevent rental evictions and utility cut-offs and provide short-term emergency motel stays. Mrs. Petrie reports that DHCS typically runs out of funding shortly after it is received and cannot provide much needed services for the remainder of the year.
Case in point: The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) 2nd allocation money to each state. Individual jurisdictions competed for the funding and Queen Anne’s County received $18,000. This program funding was to be expended between August 2012 and August 2013. By January 2013, only five months after the program started, the money was depleted.
DHCS receives funding from two other sources: The Emergency and Transitional Housing & Services Program (ETHS), and the Homeless Prevention Program (HPP). The ETHS monies provide for $6,510 in rental payments for those facing eviction and $1,000 for emergency motel stays for the homeless. This money was exhausted within three months. The HPP program was funded in the amount of $4,610 and was gone in less than two months.
The average amount awarded to each household for rent is $350.00, barely enough to stave off eviction. In Queen Anne’s County the fair market rental for a two bedroom unit is $1,231.00, a three bedroom is $1,581.00 (HUD 2012 Fair Market Rents Schedule B). Most program recipients need to seek additional help from other sources.
A household may only apply for aid once in a calendar year from DHCS. They must provide an eviction, utility cut-off notice or a new lease for help getting into a rental unit. They must also provide a driver’s license or ID, birth certificates and income documentation for all household members. Additionally, all clients are referred to the Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services to link up with additional services. Clients with utility cut-off notices must provide a referral form the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) stating that they cannot provide services to the family.
In 2009, DHCS was fortunate enough to apply for and receive money from an additional program: the Homeless Prevention Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP/RAP). They received over $120,000 for direct client services to prevent homelessness. The term of the grant was for 3 years (36 months). The Department ran out of funding in 29 ½ months. DHCS assisted 232 Queen Anne’s County households (555 citizens) through the HPRP/RAP program. Unfortunately these funds are no longer available. The additional number of households served with this one-time funding source shows a much greater need in the County than the existing programs can handle.
In the current fiscal year, DHCS served 79 households (177 people) through the ETHS/HPP and ESG 2nd Allocation programs. Many more have been and will be turned away because funding is exhausted. DHCS continues to seek out additional resources to help the community through government agencies, non-profit entities or special initiatives. The challenge to assist the citizens of Queen Anne’s County becomes greater each year as funding opportunities decrease, the cost of housing and utility increases and more families are in need.
Queen Anne’s County Department of Community Services, Division of Housing and Community Services (DHCS) helped both families and many other County residents in a time of critical need. But, unfortunately, the funding never goes far enough. If you are interested in making a tax deductible donation to help support homeless prevention programs please call the Division of Housing and Community Services at 410-758-3977.