Archive for year: 2019
For most of us, we live a lifestyle that is fully self-supporting in which we have money to cover the basics of life with enough left over to do the things that make life enjoyable. However, many across Kansas City and our nation struggle each week to pay their rent, utility bills, and to put food on the table. Our nation is the wealthiest in all of human history but we need solutions to these very real obstacles that affect millions.
Finding affordable housing is a lot harder than it sounds. For people who have poor credit, an eviction (or more) on their record, or work at low-wage jobs, it is nigh onto impossible. Many times, they are forced to pay rent that is higher than the fair market value because they represent a higher risk to the landlord. This causes even more stress on wallets that are already stretched to the limit. All it takes is an illness, a vehicle breakdown, or the loss of an income to put a family in crisis.
Some would cry foul and choose to ignore this problem under the false belief that government programs are available to help these family. It can take years for a family to be awarded Section 8 Housing assistance. When it does happen, the recipients still have no security in housing because a landlord can drop out of the program at any time resulting in mass evictions. It happens quite often and I have seen it in my office several times.
One solution that seems to work is providing tax breaks to landlords to encourage them to continue accepting housing vouchers. Likewise, we also need more income sensitive housing for those who do not qualify for Section 8 Housing. Again, tax incentives should be provided to encourage landlords to base rent on the income constraints of would be renters. This creates a win-win situation for the renter and the landlord.
Another obstacle to a fully self-supporting lifestyle is the lack of affordable (and dependable) transportation. Many families live at or below the poverty level and cannot afford to purchase a vehicle that costs more than $300 to $500. Tragically, the vehicle they can afford will be unreliable at best and at worst will stop running altogether in short order. I see it all-to-often. What are these people to do? They cannot afford to take a cab to work every day. Even as “affordable” as Uber and Lift are for single trips, it is still too expensive to sustain for long.
Many turn a blind eye to this struggle and declare that this is why we have the Kansas City Area Transit Authority where for just $3.00 anyone can ride the bus all day. On the surface, that sounds great but the devil is always in the details. The bus lines are limited. Nowhere is this truer than in Platte County. There is one bus route and that only goes as far North as the airport and is limited, more-or-less, to Prairie View Road!
What are people to do who live miles East, West, or North of the bus line because their “affordable” housing is nowhere near this KCATA approved route? None of these can get to higher wage jobs because they have no means of taking advantage of our severely limited mass transit system. Sadly, Platte County has been begging the Transit Authority for years to expand the bus line only to be told the KCATA cannot afford to expand the service it provides to Platte County.
One thing that can help these families is the donation of affordable and dependable vehicles. I know individuals that go to great pains to maintain their cars and trucks, not so they will retain value for a trade later but so they remain reliable year after year. The donation of such vehicles would be a blessing to low-income families. However, the donation of cars and trucks that are reliable is a very real problem. The unscrupulous donor of soon-to-breakdown vehicles gets a tax break while also passing their problem vehicle onto someone else. This is an issue of personal integrity and must not be tolerated as it causes great harm to low-income families.
To donate a reliable vehicle, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another obstacle to a fully self-supporting lifestyle for single mothers and many families with limited income is childcare. I recently had a family in my office where both parents are working full-time but who are paying $1500 a month in childcare for their two children. In many cases, it is more cost effective for mothers, whether single or married, to receive government assistance than to work and pay for childcare.
While it is true that childcare costs have increased as childcare workers have begun to earn more, the real problem has been stagnant wages for low-income families. In response to this, more and more churches have started to offer childcare that costs much less but, when one’s income is so low, that often makes little difference. On top of that, there are often long waiting lists to access this “affordable” childcare. We clearly need more affordable childcare options including private, neighborhood options.
One Pragmatic Solution
The greatest thing that we can do is to help low-income families earn higher wages. Many in low-income families earn so little due to a lack of education and training. While it is still legal for 16-year-olds to drop out of school, doing so negatively affects lifelong wages. Very few who did not complete high school earn more than minimum wage and many cannot find full-time work. Yes, we need to do more to promote affordable housing, affordable transportation, and affordable childcare, but raising wages through education and training should be at the top of the list as well because artificially setting wages leads not to a higher standard of living, but to higher unemployment.
We can make a difference in wages by changing the law so children are no longer allowed to quit school and by helping those who do quit to earn their high school diploma or equivalent. Additionally, we need more affordable academic and vocational training programs. This can be done by expanding access to Pell Grants and scholarships based on both need and performance. The truth is that education and training do the most to help individuals move from low-paying jobs to well-paying careers. As voters, we need to make our elected and appointed officials recognize that we can no longer afford to ignore this reality.
Blog written by HPC’s Blessings Program Director, David Johnson
When my husband and I volunteered as budget counselors at Hillcrest Platte County, we had no idea how much we would get back from the residents.
Gaining Wisdom from Experienced Counselors
As graduates of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program, we felt confident we could help the transitional housing residents with budgets. During the training session provided by Hillcrest, experienced budget counselors shared their stories of working with residents. These stories told how we would be doing more than balancing numbers. We would be impacting lives.
Over the years, we worked with married couples, single women, single mothers, and single dads. Each had their own set of circumstances that led them to seek assistance. Each resident had a story.
Listening and Making Connections
We learned the best way to help was listening to their story. And, if they were reluctant to share, we waited until they were ready.
Once a week we met with our assigned resident to review their budget, checking receipts, bank balances and cash. We heard about issues at work or with their transportation. We learned about their children and how they were managing. And, of course, we reviewed their budget and receipts. Often, the budget didn’t balance. Something was off somewhere. Those were the times we talked more. Asking if a receipt was missing or if some of their cash wasn’t included.
We could see their confidence grow as they worked through the program and we shared their joy when the numbers added up.
Opportunities to Give More
We never gave the residents money. But, we did take a single mother out to dinner for our last meeting, in celebration of her upcoming graduation.
If needed, we provided rides to the bank for residents without transportation.
When a resident graduated from the transitional housing program and needed help moving to her new apartment, we sent out a request to our church for volunteers to help. Several men showed up and were able to share in the joy of seeing her excitement.
In the summer, we often shared fresh vegetables from our garden, bringing them to the budget meeting.
What we got from the residents was more than we gave. We walked with them as they paid off debt, learned how to plan meals and shop from the housing food pantry. It was our pleasure to share in their joy as they neared graduation and prepared for their future.
We stayed in contact with a couple of graduates for a while, understanding they would eventually move on. And we prayed for them and their continued success.
About the Author:
The author is Peggy Staver, former budget counselor for HPC. Peggy blogs at her personal site, where this blog was originally published on https://www.peggystaver.com/blog-choose-this-day/.
Click this link if you would like to learn more about Hillcrest Platte County’s transitional housing program.
Leadership, Fundraising, Support, Referral Source – Ways I give back to Hillcrest
Hillcrest Platte County tops the list of organizations I support because they make a difference in our community. I appreciate how it empowers people to be their best selves by taking responsibility. Everybody comes across hard times. HPC assists people in getting over the hump and on the road to financial and personal recovery.
I love how HPC serves as a connector between agencies as well. They partner with the Platte County Economic Development Council in communicating their services to member employers and building employment partners for program participants. Some of the other agencies who partner with HPC are the Full Employment Council, Platte County Health Department, Synergy Services, and Northland Miracles. If HPC can‘t help, they have a resource list of other area agencies.
I have seen firsthand how well the program works. I recently noticed a homeless woman utilizing the public building where I work to hang out in when off work. It was winter – cold and snowy outside. She was employed and showed up for work every day, but she‘d had some hard knocks and was trying to survive as best she knew how. I knew she was seeking shelter any place she could at night, and still I could not bear the thought of her sleeping outside in the dead of winter. Because I knew the work and mission of HPC, I put her in touch with them.
I am so proud to know that she graduated from the program, improved her employment, and is moving into Tier II housing, a less structured environment within the organization giving her the opportunity to continue to work toward the goals she set during her initial residence.
The piece that really tugs at my heart is HPC‘s work with homeless young adults. How can that be? Young adults without a home? The Kansas City area has a growing population of foster kids aging out of the system, kids kicked out of homes and young moms with kids out on their own. I so appreciate HPC taking on the task of addressing the problem.
I believe so strongly in the program that I did a Facebook fundraiser for my birthday––a first for me! It was easy to set up and in a couple of days, I increased my goal twice. I didn‘t know what kind of response to expect from my Facebook friends, so I was delighted when the end result was $320 raised! It was a rewarding first time out, and it sure beats raising money via a bake sale; you don‘t want me to bake anyway. Ha!
I would encourage readers to volunteer their time and talents to help in the mission of providing a hand up to working homeless families and individuals or to sponsor a Facebook fundraiser as I did. I am honored to serve on the HPC board and so proud of its work and mission.
About the Author:
Alicia Stephens is the Executive Director at Platte County EDC,
She is also on the board of Hillcrest Platte County.