If you live in Lane County, chances are you or someone you know lives in an ALICE household. ALICE is an acronym created by United Way that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. Think of ALICE households as our families, neighbors, and colleagues who work hard, earn above the federal poverty level, but not enough to afford a basic household budget.
The United Way ALICE Report for Oregon, Washington and Idaho was released Fall 2015. It shows that in 2013, 44 percent of Eugene is ALICE, which represents more than 65,000 households that are barely scraping by. You can read the full report online at unitedwayalice.org.
The Household Survival Budget is the basis for the ALICE Threshold. It details the average minimum costs for necessities such as housing, food, transportation and childcare. This budget leaves no room for savings, meaning ALICE households are highly vulnerable to unexpected expenses.
Susanne Fendler manages ShelterCare’s Homelessness Prevention Program. She says the United Way ALICE Report data reinforce what her team sees in their work every day. “So many families in our community are just one emergency away from homelessness,” she says.
She shared an example of a Eugene family who was struggling because the husband was laid off from work. Without his income and with no savings, they couldn’t pay rent and were in danger of being evicted. The Homelessness Prevention Program assisted the family with rent subsidies to keep them afloat, but didn’t stop there. They continued to work with the family on a long-term plan. One day the client called his case manager to say he received an offer for a job that paid significantly more than $20 an hour, which would mean so much for his family, but sturdy work boots were a job requirement and he didn’t have the $300 needed to buy a pair. Homelessness Prevention was able to pay for his boots so he could accept the job. This could not have happened without the generous support we receive from private donors.
Homelessness Prevention receives some funding from federal and state programs, but Susanne says that “unrestricted” funds from private donors give her team the most flexibility to help families in need, because the case managers don’t have to ensure the expense falls within the more narrow government guidelines.
“Families at or below the ALICE Threshold are not thriving in our community,” Susanne continues. “And many assistance programs have restrictions based on the federal definition of poverty, which is far below ALICE, so these households don’t qualify.”
The goal of the Homelessness Prevention Program is to 1) Prevent families from sliding even deeper into poverty and 2) Provide families with the tools to achieve financial stability.
It’s that second goal that Susanne feels really sets Homelessness Prevention apart from other programs. “Each HPP family is assigned a dedicated case manager, Susanne says. “We’re not simply giving them a check to cover the rent…we’re working closely with them to provide skills and resources to help them move beyond a survival budget toward stability and independence.”
To designate a donation for the Homelessness Prevention Program, select “Homelessness Prevention” when you donate online or note "HPP" in the memo area of your check.