India Johnson works hard as a waitress at the Elwood Grill in downtown Detroit.
“I try to pick up extra shifts whenever they’re available,” India says. “I do whatever I have to do to support myself and my two-year son.”
India gets by, but lives paycheck to paycheck, supplemented by food stamps. Late last year, however, things were slow at the restaurant and India was laid off for a month. She fell behind on her rent and faced the possibility of eviction.
“I was very scared because I had no idea where we would go,” she says. “And the economy is so bad right now that it’s hard to find jobs. I used to do clerical work, but that dried up.”
India needed interim financial help to get her through a rough patch and keep her in her apartment. Her situation is the what Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) was designed to address.
Last fall, the Housing Resource Center at Southwest Counseling Solutions was selected to serve as the centralized intake office in Detroit to process applications for HPRP funds. The funds are made available through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).
The HPRP program provides temporary financial assistance for low-income families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless or who have become homeless, but who stand a good chance of sustaining stable housing in rental units.
The Housing Resource Center (HRC) has two HPRP specialists. They review HPRP applications to see if they meet eligibility requirements. Marianne Deschaine is the specialist who assisted India.
“HPRP is truly groundbreaking, as a short-term intervention aimed at families that have a demonstrated capacity for self-sufficiency,” say Marianne. “Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the program is that it offers a concrete solution to families that find themselves in a housing crisis because of the severe recession in Detroit."
After eligible applications are processed, applicants are referred to Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan or United Community Housing Coalition, who process the funds and provide additional assistance.
India received $1100 that enabled her to pay the two months rent that she missed and stay in her apartment.
Work has also picked up at the restaurant, which is close to Comerica Park and gets very busy during baseball season. As a result, India feels that her finances will be stable in the near future. She hopes to return to college this fall so she can one day provide a better life for herself and her son.
“I feel fortunate to have received help at a time when it seemed like everything was falling apart,” India says. “I also know that there are many others in situations like mine who may not know where to turn.”
“HPRP is an important opportunity to serve the housing needs of a population generally ineligible for services,” says Alison Heeres, HPRP specialist at the Housing Resource Center. “It is my hope that HPRP could lead to more comprehensive housing assistance services for the working poor to combat homelessness.”
To apply for HPRP assistance, applicants must secure a referral from an authorized agency. The Housing Resource Center is one of those agencies, and individuals seeking an HPRP application can call Marianne or Alison at 313.963.6601 to schedule an appointment.
The HPRP program at the Housing Resource Center is funded for two years and is expected to serve about 500 households. To date, the HRC has processed 270 referrals, of which 114 met the eligibility requirements and were then referred to the two partner agencies.