In May 2018, the Eugene city council amended land use code R1 to allow places of worship to build up to two housing units for low-income residents. Now, the Parkside transitional housing units are welcoming two single mothers and their children.
Partnered with St. Vincent de Paul’s Connections Transitional Housing Program, the Parkside units are located on First Congregational Church property.
Each 600 square foot unit includes two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, living room, and a laundry unit. St. Vincent de Paul pays for the move-in deposit, provides various household goods, and furniture vouchers for items such as couches and kitchen tables.
Small households at the top of the Lane County Central Waitlist for housing were chosen to participate in the transitional housing program for up to two years. St. Vincent de Paul subsidizes the families’ rent to no more than 30% of their income, allowing households to save money and improve their financial habits. Families are expected to pay for utilities as well as additional living expenses throughout the month.
Since January 2015, the Connections program has served 85 families—115 adults and 165 children—in Lane County.
Casi Totten has been the Connections Transitional Housing Program manager for over six years. Although households cannot be in the program for more than two years, she believes most who participate are able to sustain themselves.
“They've been connected with resources in the community, they've built a community within the housing complex that they're in, the kids have stabilized and they're in one place long enough and have a warm place to sleep, and I think overall families benefit,” said Totten.
The Connections program also provides multiple resources and intense case management. Parents are required to create a monthly budget and are encouraged to participate in a four-week financial education class either through Medco or St. Vincent de Paul.
Totten said individual development accounts are provided and function as saving accounts where St. Vincent de Paul matches the amount of money saved. Depending on St. Vincent de Paul’s funding, families can be matched about three times the amount they saved.
Transportation and childcare are provided so parents can also participate in a 10-week class called Boundaries. The group works on different topics each week like healthy parenting, communication, and setting healthy boundaries for their life with their kids and partners. A prenatal and postnatal worker also helps pregnant moms, as well as assists with homecare after childbirth. A parent coach is also available to help with any daily routines, concerns, or questions about development and interactions with the children.
After families finish their one to two year housing contract, they can access support services for up to six months after leaving the program. But St. Vincent de Paul is unable to provide financial support, such as rent.
“We do often have families…check in with us, asking about different community resources or anything else that they think we might know more about or can help them in some regard,” said Totten. “And then some don't feel like they need…us at all after and they've gone their way and they received the financial and supportive assistance that they needed to help them from homelessness to housing, and they're on their way. So it kind of varies.”
According to Totten, the goal is to have the Parkside families stabilized within a year, with the realization that they could need more or less than a year of supportive housing. She said they have this goal so they can continue helping other households.
“We are working to get families stabilized quicker because there's such a high need,” said Totten. “The waitlists are so long to get families in obviously [because of the] housing crisis and a lot of families that are homeless. So we're working to move people through quicker so we can open up more spaces for other people.”
The program’s success rate for the 85 families they have helped since January 2015 includes 76 families who went into permanent housing, four in transitional housing, and five that are unknown or possibly homelessness.
Totten said barriers a family has coming into the program, such as health issues, can impact their success and make it difficult for them to live on their own after the program and without the subsidized rent.
“A family coming from homelessness to housing struggle just to maintain their health coming from such a vulnerable state,” said Totten. “I think that there's a lot of health conditions that are overlooked and not really treated either. And then, with that comes employment because you can't really get employed unless you're healthy to some degree to maintain the employment.”
The Connections program is currently assisting 20 households, including the two Parkside families at First Congregational Church.
Due to a lack of a grant increase, the program has had to decrease the amount of people served throughout the years. Totten said she’s glad the partnership with First Congregational Church has been established specifically for households in the connections program.
“We utilize what units we have throughout Eugene and Springfield, but there's definitely a shortage of case managed units of affordable housing,” said Totten. “So we're constantly struggling to find affordable housing to put our families in.”
St. Vincent de Paul’s Connections Transitional Housing Program helps 21 families annually in Lane County.