Before the coronavirus spread to the Upstate, the Home Again program was working with families living long term in two substandard motels in Greenville County.
Since the onset of the pandemic, that number has grown to 10.
The Home Again program, a partnership of United Way of Greenville County, the Greenville Housing Fund and United Housing Connections, provides financial support and coaching to families who have been forced to live in motels after pitfalls such as job loss or credit issues. The goal is to allow them to move out of unfit living conditions and into long-term rentals that better meet their family's need and to lay a ground work for self sufficiency in the future.
The economic toll of the pandemic has significantly increased the number of families forced into unfit living conditions in Greenville County, according to Greenville Housing Fund CEO Bryan Brown.
"Even though there's been an eviction moratorium and all the rest of it, the numbers don't lie," Brown said. "We have more families in this situation than we had before."
To help address the growing scope of the problem in the Upstate, the charitable arm of TD Bank awarded $250,000 to the Greenville Housing Fund to support the program. GHF was one of 32 organizations to receive support from TD Charitable Foundation's Housing for Everyone grant program this year.
Brown said the funding will support several programs within the Home Again initiative. One is the insurance program that provides guaranteed rent payments to landlords to give them more confidence in renting to tenants who might otherwise be considered high risk.
"We're working with landlords to say, 'This household may appear to be more of a risk, but this program is standing with this household,'" Brown said.
The other is the coaching and education program for the people Home Again serves, which provides them with the tools and financial literacy to save money and support themselves.
Brown said the issue of families living in unsuitable living conditions such as motels or hotels for long stretches was a crisis before the pandemic. But the continued spread of the coronavirus has taken a financial toll on vulnerable populations and left many isolated from support systems.
"Some of these families may have been doubled up before COVID and then you get in a situation where someone in the household gets COVID, and they have to go, they can't stay," he said. "There's just a variety of reasons."
While the motels are more accessible for struggling families in the short term, they're often more expensive than more suitable rentals long term.
The people the program serves might have the $250 they need to keep a roof over their head for a week at an extended-stay motel, a living situation that will ultimately cost them $1,000 a month. But the $1,600 they would need for first and last month's rent at an $800-a-month apartment could be out of reach.
That's one of the areas where Home Again steps in to fill the gap and another program the grant from TD Bank will support.
Brown said the $250,000 infusion from the Housing for Everyone program will go a long way in helping the program to better serve families in that situation as the crisis worsens.