On the 1st and 15th of each month, a voicemail box opens from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Families (on the 1st) and households with exclusively adults (on the 15th) call in to leave a message requesting assistance from St. Stephen’s Traditional Prevention Program. While the line is open for two hours, we recommend calling as close to 8:00 as possible.
Callers leave basic identifying information, their gross monthly income, and the type and dollar amount of assistance they need to avoid homelessness. Then, they wait to see if they receive funds from St. Stephen’s limited pool of prevention funds each month.
Although Minnesota's current eviction moratorium prevents evictions based solely on non-payment of rent, rent is still due. Needs for homelessness prevention assistance persist. Recently, we have heard themes on these calls of households needing assistance due to the end of additional weekly unemployment benefits, and new challenges of balancing employment and safe childcare.
We zoomed in on what is unique about St. Stephen’s Traditional Prevention Program, and what gaps we are filling in community needs:
Consistency. Our Prevention Program has maintained the same criteria throughout the pandemic. Eligible households don’t need to have lost income due to COVID-19 at all. If they have, they don’t need to be able to prove the direct link between the pandemic and their income or housing situation.
Housing First. We know that affordable housing is scarce, and that the job market is even tighter than usual. Eligible households do not need to provide proof of employment, or that a job is just around the corner. Nor do they need to prove that their housing situation meets an affordability formula. We build sustainability with individuals and families, rather than requiring it from the start.
Community relationships. By building upon trust to co-create successful outcomes, St. Stephen’s has built up a strong reputation in the community. Households are often familiar with St. Stephen’s because they have used our services in the past, or know someone who has had a successful experience. This trust builds a solid base for productive relationships between case managers and households.
Flexibility. We know that every household has different needs, and so every plan we make with our clients is going to look different. We can help households with short-term financial assistance, with setting up payment plans, and with mid- to long-term goals for sustainability. Payment plans can be especially helpful right now as households look toward the eventual end of eviction moratoriums.
Once the eviction moratorium is lifted, we anticipate a large spike in demand as more households in our community will be facing more impactful housing crises. We are currently working to fill existing gaps in community needs, and to prepare for what we expect to be a sharp rise in requests for assistance once existing moratoriums end and pandemic-specific rental assistance funds are depleted.