30th Anniversary Grant Update: Hope Southern Indiana
Imagine, for a moment, you’re a single parent working in the food industry. You work hard, putting in 40 hours each week to support your family. After tips, you walk away with what’s equivalent to $10/hour before returning to the warm confines of your one-bedroom rental home.
So, what’s the kicker? This scenario is completely fictional. And it’s not just the characters that aren’t real.
According to the 2021 Priorities for Progress: Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana Report, someone earning $10/hour would need to work almost 71 hours per week to be able to afford the rent and utilities of a one-bedroom apartment. In fact, it takes an hourly wage of almost $18/hour for a single parent to afford that same-sized residence. It jumps to $21/hour for a two-bedroom rental.
Many in Clark and Floyd counties see the housing affordability trends as disturbing. Roughly 58% of respondents to the Priorities for Progress report listed homelessness as the second-most important concern in our communities, behind adult drug and alcohol abuse (75%). “Without … stable housing,” the report states, “performing well in school, maintaining employment, and engaging in health behaviors that support well-being are challenging, if not impossible.”
One local Southern Indiana nonprofit organization is doing its part to help curb the growing number of families experiencing the real possibility of homelessness thanks to a timely grant from the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana.
Anna: A Story of Hope
When Anna discovered Hope Southern Indiana, she was spiraling and running out of options.
Living in her car and doing her best to care for four children – aged 1, 2, 3, and 5 – Anna found herself in a vicious cycle. Between childcare, rent, and day-to-day expenses, she simply wasn’t earning enough money to justify working a full-time job. Assistance was difficult to find, especially with so many area nonprofits being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Food pantries shuttered and funding opportunities slowed, with some organizations being forced to close their doors for good.
Anna was stuck – a position all too familiar for many in the homeless population. To make matters worse, the mother was facing the real possibility of losing her children to child protective services.
Enter Hope Southern Indiana.
A nonprofit organization based out of New Albany, Ind., Hope Southern Indiana (HSI) empowers and supports individuals and families toward stability. And once Executive Director Angela Graf heard about Anna’s story, there was no hesitation in getting her family enrolled in a long-term program.
“Anna was referred to us from our Trustees. She had just left a relationship and was on her own taking care of four children, all of whom weren’t even biologically hers,” Graf says. “We didn’t know much about Anna – we just knew she was homeless and needed our services. She was in danger of losing her children if we didn’t intervene.”
Hope Southern Indiana signed Anna up for their long-term program, which keeps her under the organization’s umbrella for up to two months. They provided her with a room at an extended-stay hotel, clothing for her family, and schooling for her children. Anna was also able to feed her family using HSI’s expansive food pantry – a resource that wasn’t always possible while homeless and lacking reliable transportation.
The organization was able to offer these services to Anna thanks to its Emergency Services Crisis Assistance program. It provides direct assistance to individuals and families in Floyd County, helping with anything from eviction prevention to wrap-around services.
Emergency Relief for the Local Community
When HSI was selected by the public to be awarded a $15,000 grant as part of the CFSI’s 30th Anniversary celebration in December, it wasn’t the first time they had received a timely grant from the Community Foundation to help make a difference in the lives of Floyd County residents. Since 1997, the Foundation had awarded 75 grants for a total of $283,016 to Hope Southern Indiana, helping to funds projects such as a self-esteem camp for middle and high school girls, and installing window air conditioning units for the elderly population.
Last December’s grant, which was the third-highest grant in the organization’s history, couldn’t have come at a better time for the nonprofit. With November and December typically being the organization’s busiest times, Graf says 100% of that funding went directly to the Emergency Services program to help people exactly like Anna.
“We needed that funding so badly, especially in a Covid-19 world,” Graf says. “Lack of affordable housing has continued to be a major issue in our community. In June of 2022 alone, we helped 55 families with their rent and utilities, which was more than $52,000 for the month. Those are not normal numbers. But it’s expected with so many eviction protections expiring. It’s crazy out there for people living paycheck to paycheck. Without the help of the Community Foundation and our other donors, these people would be out on the street.”
The importance of Hope Southern Indiana’s Emergency Services program cannot be understated, especially for those living in Section 8 or public housing. Not only does it provide food and nutrition for families of all sizes, but it also helps prevent evictions, which are automatic when utilities are disconnected.
In addition to financial help, the Emergency Services program also introduces clients to some of Hope Southern Indiana’s self-sufficiency resources, including a Holistic Hardware course. In November 2016, CFSI awarded a $15,000 grant to start the incentive-based program designed to teach individuals 10 tools that will help them in their everyday life. Participants earn $500 at the completion of the five-week seminar, and its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years.
“In our Holistic Hardware class, we let everyone know that we refer to our relationship as a partnership,” Graf says. “Our clients need to meet us almost half-way on everything, so this isn’t a one-sided effort. When they put in the effort to become self-sufficient, you get people like Anna, who just shine. She had a vision and wasn’t afraid to write down her goals to get to where she saw herself.”
Since getting the help she needed, Anna has enrolled her kids into a local childcare program, in addition to taking on two jobs. Tracy Skaggs, a Case Manager for Siemer Institute, even reported that Anna recently interviewed – and was in line – for a new position making more than $20/hour.
And it wouldn’t have been possible without Hope Southern Indiana’s Emergency Services program.
“When we found out about Anna, we knew that more than anything, she wanted to keep her family together. She is a good mother, and we knew we could help,” Graf says. “She took it upon herself to be open about her situation and went out into the community for support. Anna was able to utilize all the resources the best she could, even if that meant she had to be honest about being homeless. And that’s the end goal of what we’re trying to do here: have a vision, endure the valleys, and be rewarded with the victory.”