Stories & Insights

Rental Support in the Face of a Pandemic

The Rhode Island community is over 7 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. President & CEO Karen Santilli reflects on the importance of rental assistance for the families and individuals we serve, especially during these challenging times.

May 12, 2020

by Karen Santilli

We’re over 7 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve all been watching this unfold and have seen the devastating impact the corona virus has had on every aspect of our lives. Everything from how we get our food to where we work to how we socialize and interact has changed. We’ve had no choice but to evolve and change with it. One of the most difficult things for me has been the uncertainty of what’s next and the inability to plan for the future because I don’t know when or how things will return to normal, or even if the new normal will be normal.

With the shutdown of our economy, housing security has become a primary issue for so many more households than usual. Many are asking, “How will I pay the rent? Will my utilities be shut off once the moratorium ends? Will I be able to stay in my apartment once the eviction moratorium ends?”

Crossroads Rhode Island has been providing temporary rental assistance and supportive services for hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals and families since our shift to a housing first model. Through this rental assistance, usually lasting 9 months, individuals and families who had been homeless are able to move into private market apartments with a lease in their own name. Crossroads provides housing-based case management during that time that includes financial literacy, education and employment supports, referrals and support navigating the healthcare system, and whatever other supports are needed to help people stabilize their housing and become independent.

One of my responsibilities at Crossroads is to sign checks. As I was just signing a stack of rent checks to landlords for our clients’ May rent, I’m thinking about how grateful I am that we have the resources, thanks to our city, state and federal funding partners, to provide this support to recently homeless individuals and families. I was also recalling how just four weeks ago, I was signing the same checks for April’s rent. Two months into this pandemic and we are still able to ensure that our clients are able to stay in their apartments and have their rent supported so they can focus on the other important aspects of their lives, like supporting their children in virtual learning, or safely socially distancing, or working on finding employment. I know these things would be nearly impossible for them to manage if they were in shelter, or living on the streets or in their cars.

Temporary rental assistance and permanent supportive housing are two housing programs offered by Crossroads to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. They are what allows us to move people from shelters or unsafe living situations into the safety of their own home. This would not be possible without the critical funding received from our funding partners and donors supporting our work. I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know what the new normal will be. I have no idea how many new individuals and families will become homeless as a result of this pandemic. What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that Crossroads will be there to help them get back into housing and stabilize their lives. I hope you are with me on that critically important journey.

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