The most cost-effective and efficient way to deal with the issue of homelessness is to prevent it from happening. For people who lack a personal safety net, the potential of becoming homeless is often one paycheck, health challenge, employment issue, or family emergency away. This issue is greatly magnified by the pandemic. Thanks to the generosity of the United Way of Greater St. Louis and donors to the Illinois Covid-19 Response Fund, CUP was able to deliver $10,000 in homeless prevention services to nine households in July. These households represent 11 adults and 10 children. We appreciate the clients mentioned in this story for allowing us to share their experiences. Catholic Urban Programs has changed the names of the clients to protect their privacy.

Joyce, a recently divorced mother of two, had full-time employment prior to being diagnosed with the coronavirus. Having a severe case of the disease, Joyce was out of work three months. Now healthy and back to work full-time, Joyce and her young children were at risk for homelessness due to being behind on rent and utilities. With a little help getting caught up on her bills, Joyce no longer fears becoming homeless.

Belinda is a single mother who had full-time employment prior to the pandemic. With an income too far above the poverty level to qualify for government assistance, Belinda struggled to make ends meet and had to file for bankruptcy. Being furloughed only increased Belinda’s burden, and caused her to get further behind with her finances. With late utility and rent bills, Belinda and her daughter were at risk for becoming homeless even though she is once again working full-time. Belinda received the help she needed to get caught up on utility and rental payments.

Jordan and his roommate, George were both impacted by the pandemic. Jordan’s hours were reduced, and George was furloughed. The roommates found themselves three months behind in utility payments and delinquent in their rent. Catholic Urban Programs was able to assist in both areas, giving Jordan and George peace of mind in these uncertain times.

Sierra is a single mother of a toddler who was dealt a difficult blow being laid off and diagnosed with the coronavirus at the same time. Upon recovering from the virus, Sierra informed her manager that she was well and ready to return to work only to find out her employer was not ready for her return. For a period of two months, Sierra was unable to pay her rent and utilities. Having recently secured a new full-time job, Sierra needed help getting caught up on rent and utilities and feels great about being back on track.

“The founder of Catholic Urban Programs often spoke about our role being one of ‘listening to broken hearts’,” said Toni Muhammad, Executive Director. “Our Housing Navigator, Carmelia Williams, did just that while quickly deploying these much-needed funds. Carmelia was inspired by the resilience of the clients she was able to assist, especially the single mothers who overcame the coronavirus and wage loss. We are so happy to have had the opportunity to partner with the United Way of Greater St. Louis in assisting these wonderful families.”

The mission of Catholic Urban Programs is to advance the dignity of the human person, remediate the effects of poverty, and empower people to become self-sufficient through crisis intervention housing security, and out of school time programs.