An Update on CSL's Efforts to Keep Our Neighbors Stably Housed

By Doug Cowan, President & CEO

Housing. It’s an issue that affects all seven-plus billion people on the planet. Locally, helping low-income families remain stably housed is something that CSL has helped with since we were formed in 1916. The economic crisis related to COVID-19 has put many families in a difficult position.

In our industry, we often say that the poor live with no margin of error, meaning that there’s usually barely enough money to make ends meet, and one setback can cause the proverbial house of cards to crumble. Any reduction of employment or an unexpected expense can cause a family’s stability to be in danger. So, COVID-19 has exacerbated many families’ existing shaky foundation.

So, how does CSL help keep families stably housed and why is the work so important? First, the why. Families that remain stable almost always improve their outcomes in other life domains. Relationships become more stable. Stress is lowered. Children’s academic performance improves the longer they stay in the same school (attendance also goes up, and behavior incidents go down). A family’s health, both mental and physical, improves the longer they stay stably housed. All of this goes without saying that unstable families can easily end up on the streets, couch-surfing, or living in a car, which always leads to poor health and wellbeing outcomes.

With your support, here are 10 ways CSL helps families remain stably housed (you will see links that you can click on to access previous blog posts that describe some of these efforts in more detail):

  1. Direct assistance – In 2020, CSL paid more than $3,000,000 in direct aid, mostly in the form of rent and utility assistance, to help families avoid utility shut-off and/or eviction.

  2. Case management – CSL has a team of professionals that provide ongoing support and guidance to families to help them remain stably housed.

  3. Homeownership issues – CSL, as a HUD-approved Housing Counselor, teaches first-time homebuyer classes, and also helps families work to avoid foreclosure. We helped many families navigate forbearance related to the COVID-19 crisis.

  4. Family Stability Specialists – Six full-time staff at CSL are focused on a portfolio of families that are at risk of becoming unstable. These families all have school-age children and are referred into the program by the child’s school. The staff address many life domains to promote stability.

  5. Access to affordable housing – Nine CSL staff work inside of Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence, and provide wrap-around supports to build more resilient neighbors, and a stronger community. We help families, whether it’s Hawthorne or other affordable housing, navigate that opportunity and try to connect families that desperately need that housing as a pathway to self-sufficiency.

  6. Wealth and Asset-Building Tools – Through innovative programs like the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, families can escrow earned income into savings accounts. In 2020, CSL graduated four families from Hawthorne Place Apartments into homeownership.

  7. Small-dollar loansPowered by NASB, CSL has launched a housing loan as part of our NextStep KC small-dollar lending program. This loan, at only 6%, helps families access reasonable capital that helps fill in the gaps where direct assistance dollars often fall short. Loans, for example, could be made for a family to treat a bed bug infestation, which often runs $1,000 or more. We also can do loans for minor home repair, or we can connect a borrower to money to pay off a past judgement. Many renters can’t find suitable housing if they have a recent judgement on their record.

  8. Permanent Supportive Housing – Supported by HUD, CSL currently holds the leases on 45 properties in the Kansas City area to house the formerly-homeless.

  9. Homeless Street Outreach – CSL works in partnership with public and private partners to find our homeless neighbors, provide them immediate assistance, and try to put them on a path to permanent housing.

  10. Energy Efficiency – Through direct service or referral, CSL can help families improve their home’s energy efficiency, and, thus, reduce their monthly cost of living.

As I write this, we are hyper-focused on bringing additional resources to our communities to help more families remain stably housed. If you know someone facing unstable housing, please have them call (816) 912-4495. It’s your gifts that make the programs happen, so we thank you for your continued support!

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