Sometimes small expenses can completely derail folks trying to leave homelessness behind.
For people just getting into transitional housing, little costs like a work uniform or a car tire can be enough to put them back on the street or in a shelter. That's where "flex funds" come in.
Cindy Crain is Executive Director of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, a group trying to solve this problem. She took that position in March after many years with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition. She’s also a member of KERA’s Community Advisory Board.
Interview Highlights: Cindy Crain On…
…what small expenses can prolong homelessness: “Oftentimes you can get services from shelters or from housing programs and they’ll pay maybe a rental subsidy or perhaps a first month’s rent, but oftentimes they won’t pay for the application fee to even apply for housing. these little costs they have to come up with themselves and for many individuals that are experiencing homelessness, they literally are zero income.”
…how flex funds help people: “In Tarrant County we had a flexible fund called Direct Client Service Fund. We had a client who sold his tools because he needed cash because he had to pay one of his probation fees. Well when he was clear, he got a job, he needed his tools back, well they were at a pawn shop, nobody’s going to give you the money to get your tools out of a pawn shop. We were able to do it with that assistance fund that guy got back to work and then within two months, he had enough money in order to get his own, private housing.”
...what Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance is doing to help: "When I first started here in Dallas in March I had an idea about a flex fund and I thought it would take me a year to get it started. I talked about it as a best practice during the State of the Homeless Address, the United Way heard, so we got $38,000 of seed funding from United Way to get this project started."