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COCONINO VOICES

Coconino Voices: Homelessness and how northern Arizona landlords can help

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Homelessness is often not what you’d expect. The man you saw asking for money on the street may have once been a CEO who slipped into depression and lost his job and life savings. The young woman you saw holding up a sign at the intersection may well have lost her home and income in escaping domestic violence.

To understand the plight of those experiencing homelessness is to consider the barriers and challenges to finding safe, sustainable housing. Housing costs play an instrumental role in determining who can -- and can’t -- gain access to necessities like a roof over their head.

In northern Arizona, rent costs significantly higher than Fair Market Rent (the estimated cost a property will rent for) burden individuals, families, and veterans alike. Based on Catholic Charities’ data measuring the costs of an average two-bedroom rental, we can see the devastating impact this has.

• In Coconino County, rental costs are $560 higher than Fair Market Rent

• In Yavapai County, rental costs are $774 higher

• In Mohave County, rental costs are $345 higher

If there’s one thing we know about walking alongside those experiencing homelessness, it’s that we can’t do it alone. Our relationships with community partners and federal and state organizations play an important role in helping connect people to resources that are essential to financial stability and independence.

That’s why, in addition to the current support offered through our programs, we hope to use our grant funding to work with landlords on additional housing opportunities.

You may recognize the Catholic Charities name, but you may not know exactly what we do. Our Housing Services, Veterans Services, and PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) programs help those experiencing homelessness secure housing and connect them to vital resources like food, benefits, healthcare, job opportunities and childcare.

• Catholic Charities’ Housing Services program offers emergency shelter, Rapid Rehousing (financial assistance with case management), and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH works to house families in which one parent has a substance-use disorder or disability, as well as individuals with disabilities. These families and individuals work with a case manager to help them obtain their own income, set goals, and seek medical care.

• The Veterans Services program assists veteran men, women and families experiencing homelessness gain stable housing.

• The PATH program has specially trained staff and volunteers to connect those who are seriously mentally ill and experiencing homelessness with treatment and housing.

Taking a closer look at who and how we serve paints a clearer picture of how high rent costs, coupled with challenges like disability, substance use and mental illness, create barriers to housing.

The complex challenge of homelessness requires creative solutions. To that end, the power in reducing homelessness in our communities is driven by collaboration. A focus on working with northern Arizona landlords who want to make an impact is a strong place start.

Apartments, houses and other affordable rentals are all viable options for housing.

My greatest joy in the work we do is telling the success stories of those we serve, whether it’s a veteran who’s proud to receive that hard-earned job offer or a mother who cries tears of joy after finally having a place to call home.

We must remember that homelessness is not the fault of people experiencing it, but rather the fault of a society so eager to turn a blind eye to it.

If you’re a landlord who wants to bring sustainable housing to your community’s most vulnerable, contact Sarah Rendon, Homeless Services Program Manager, at 928-606-7731.

Bethany Durham is a Content Marketing Specialist for Catholic Charities who is based out of Flagstaff.

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