Written by One Roof’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Stacy Oliver.
National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week takes place each year the week before Thanksgiving, and this year it will be honored across the United States from November 16 -22. As a part of our mission to equip and empower central Alabama to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services,One Roof is observing this week by raising awareness of the barriers to housing and solutions for ending homelessness. One solution that we, in partnership with the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama, would like to suggest during Homeless Awareness Week is a dedicated revenue source for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund.
For the past four years, One Roof has been advocating for more safe, decent, accessible, affordable housing for homeless men, women, and children in central Alabama. In recent years it has become clear that there is an overwhelming shortage of affordable housing units for the number of families who need them. Many of the phone calls we receive in our office come from families who are working as hard as they can, but still have to seek rental or utility assistance in order to stay in their homes. Additionally, that rental and utility assistance is scarce and runs out quickly each month due to the overwhelming number of people who need it. Many other families call us in need of shelter or other services after they have lost their housing. On any given night in 2014, 139 families will experience homelessness in central Alabama because of a serious lack of safe, decent, accessible, and affordable housing.
One Roof implements a region-wide information system and case management tool called PromisSE, which records homeless services that are being used and helps us understand where there are gaps in services, trends in homelessness, and other important data. At this time, our numbers reflect a very serious, dire need in our state — and that need is for more places for people (and especially families) to call home.
While it may seem like a fairly simple statement to make, One Roof believes that the answer to ending homelessness is having a home. At this time, we know that families are struggling to meet even their most basic needs while holding on to their housing. We know that it is nearly impossible for 30% of low income renters to afford a modest two-bedroom home at fair market rent.
Having a dedicated revenue source for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund would mean that more families could feel empowered to live healthy, independent lives. Their children can have a safe place to sleep at night, and the family can afford to put a warm meal on the table. We feel so strongly that Alabamians should know about what the Alabama Housing Trust Fund can do to end homelessness, that at 6:00 PM on Friday, November 21, at the YWCA Central Alabama, we want to honor National Homeless Awareness Week by inviting our community to a documentary screening about homelessness followed by an educational session on the Alabama Housing Trust Fund. We want all members of the community to feel welcome to attend, ask questions, and learn about this smart solution to ending homelessness in our state. In addition to the documentary screening, One Roof is hosting an educational homeless simulation activity in Railroad Park on Thursday, November 20, at 6:00 PM.
We need our neighbors to know about what amazing things could happen if the Alabama Housing Trust Fund had a dedicated revenue source. To learn more and get involved in our two Homeless Awareness Week events, we invite everyone to register online by visiting One Roof’s website, www.oneroofonline.org. For any questions or concerns, contact One Roof’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Stacy Oliver (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Enacted in 2012 without funding, the Alabama Housing Trust Fund can be used to construct and rehabilitate affordable homes, both for rental and homeownership opportunities. It could also be used for down payment assistance or for emergency repairs to keep people in their homes. A trust fund is a flexible source of funding to address a community’s most pressing affordable housing needs. It is time for Alabama to invest in its communities and its people and capitalize the Housing Trust Fund. To learn more about the Alabama Housing Trust Fund, please visit www.alabamahousingtrustfund.org.