EOC funding for homeless aid falls short

Approximately 6,000 people in Warren County are estimated to be living in poverty.

The Forest-Warren Economic Opportunties Council (EOC) is able to provide aid for less than 2 percent of that number to stay in their homes through their homelessness assistance program.

The average Warren County household is made up of 2.3 people. At that rate, there are more than 2,500 impoverished households in the county. The EOC can provide aid to only 30, or 1.2 percent.

Even ignoring the average household size and assuming a four-person household only raises the the number to approximately 2.02 percent.

The program provides funds for first month’s rent, security deposits or arrears payments up to $300 per family in an effort to keep low-income families from becoming homeless. Families must have a means of providing future payments to remain in their homes to qualify.

“This program can help them out until they get to a more stable financial situation,” EOC Community Service Director Julia Roque explained. “We want to spread out the grant money to as many families as we can,”

The EOC allotment for the program is only $10,000, meaning they can extend help to just over 30 families.

Meanwhile, Warren County has a population of just over 41,000 people and, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), 14.5 percent are living in poverty.

“With minimum wage, which a lot of Warren County makes, they can barely buy food… medical coverage,” Roque noted. “The rent’s usually the first thing to let go.”

Last year the EOC stretched that funding beyond just 30 families, aiding 41 in total, but still ran out of funds in May, four months short of the new fiscal year. The EOC’s fiscal year begins on Sept. 1.

“For the four months that we were out we had about 50 families apply,” Roque said. “There is no other funding for housing assistance in Warren County. None. There’s a veterans’ program, but it’s only for veterans. This program, basically, helps the general population of Warren County. So when this program stopped for four months, the situation was desperate.”

Roque estimated the EOC gets an average of ten calls per-day about the program.

“At $300 we can only help 30 families,” Roque said. “That’s not enough.”

Funding for another program, Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRH), ran out more than a year ago. Under the HPRH program, low-income families were eligible for up to $3,000 and funds could be provided for up to 18 months. Under the homelessness assistance program, a family is only eligible for a single payment up to a total of $300, one-tenth of the prior limit.

The EOC has just begun processing applications for the program for this year.

“I just started doing intakes yesterday,” Roque said on Sept. 6. “We already have ten families we’re moving through it and it’s only the first month.”

The program is open to households with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, but Roque noted few applicants make even that much. Households are only eligible for assistance funds once every 24 months.

“Most of the people are only at 150 percent at most anyway,” she said. “We want the community to know it’s here, but they have to use it sparingly. They also need to think about their budgets… day-to-day expenses that aren’t essential.”

The program is also available through the Salvation Army and the assistance office.

“Between the three of us, we can help a lot of families,” Roque said. “We at the EOC are looking for grant opportunities to help fund this. I just hope those who are well off realize this is going on.”

The 2013 federal poverty guidelines for the contiguous United States (household size – income guideline):

1 – $11,490

2 – $15,510

3 – $19,530

4 – $23,550

5 – $27,570

6 – $31,590

7 – $35,610

8 – $39,630

For households with more than 8 persons, add $4,020 for each additional person.