New Partner at BSM Offers Guests a Path to More Secure Housing

November 6, 2013

UESF_7058Many of our Breaking Bread guests, especially those living in shelters, are often caught in a vicious cycle – they could get stable housing that would allow them to reclaim their lives, but they were in arrears with their utility bill when they did have a home. So now they are not eligible to find a new home. And often these bills amount to as little as $200 or $300.

For several years now a wonderful organization, Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF), has been working to address this cycle which keeps individuals and families ensnared in the shelter system by working with utility companies to either offer debt forgiveness, or to develop a payment plan to retire that debt over a longer period of time. This is truly a life-changing experience for many of our most vulnerable neighbors. And it is our good fortune to have them as a partner during Breaking Bread.

One day a week members of the UESF team come to Broad Street to present workshops for our guests explaining what services are available to them. But our friends from UESF do more than just present information. On alternate weeks they come to Breaking Bread to follow up with guests, and begin the process of freeing them up to become eligible for stable housing.

We are already seeing the results of these efforts. Within the first two weeks of partnering with us, ten of our guests have attended informational sessions, and of those are getting help at this critical time when fall seems to be quickly turning into winter. One of these guests is an older veteran who was unable to stay current with his gas bill and his service was shut off. The UESF team is working with him to complete the necessary paperwork to have his gas service turned back on. The UESF team is helping another guest with procuring a PGW grant, which will clear up any arrearages she encountered. She will now be in a position to remain in her home and develop a payment plan for the future that will dramatically reduce her housing insecurities.

Organizations like UESF have learned that one effective way of addressing homelessness is to develop strategies for those who are precariously housed to remain in their homes. We are delighted to have UESF as a partner in this shared work of helping people transition from hopelessness to optimism and from vulnerability to stability.