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Moving Families Forward Through Food Insecurity

“I never really knew how to cook, or plan or budget.  Buying McDonalds’s was cheaper and easier than wrestling with 3 kids at the grocery store.”  For families living paycheck to paycheck, budgeting an entire week’s worth of meals is daunting.  “Do I pay for utilities this week, medications, or put gas in the car?  I can scrape together $10 today to buy 10 dollar items off the Dollar Menu, but I wasn’t able to save up enough for a week’s worth of groceries to go to the store.”

Food insecurity, which can be defined as the lack of access to an adequate amount of affordable and healthy foods, is an issue seen all over the United States. Unfortunately, within our own beautiful state of Colorado, food insecurity is rampant. Nearly 1 in 11 Coloradoans deals with extreme hunger and the lack of resources to acquire a sufficient amount of food. Perhaps even more shocking is that 1 in 7 children face the hardships of food insecurity as well. Every child in our program, faces food insecurity as they are transitioning out of homelessness.  Research suggests that an impactful strategy for decreasing food insecurity is to help provide the hungry with access to nutritious food. Through the programs we offer our Partners, Partners in Housing does just that through a continuum that takes them from food insecurity to stability and self-reliance.

Often times our Partners are on a tight food stamp budget, so having to provide daily nutritious meals for their families can be a struggle. In Colorado, to be eligible for food stamps, the income of a single parent with one child has to fall below $1782. Even then, the most they can qualify for in food stamps is $352 to be spent per month on food. This unfortunately does not cover baby formula or food that has already been prepared. Many times, our moms will go without food to ensure that their children at least are taken care of.

There are many resources which our Partners can utilize that help move them out of food insecurity. Most of these resources can be accessed by our Partners at the Colorado House and Resource Center in downtown Colorado Springs. The Colorado House has a large food pantry which holds non-perishable food items. In the month of February, ANB Bank hosted a food drive in each of its 5 local branches.  Jenkins Middle School National Junior Honor Society collected items for the month of March and we have also received food donations from individuals as well.  If your family, school, group or company would like to adopt our food pantry for an upcoming month, please let us know!  With summer right around the corner, children that benefit from the school lunch program will have an additional need.

Having access to a food pantry and canned food items is just the first step to meeting our Partner families’ nutrition needs. A few years ago, Lowes generously donated and built a kitchen for our Partners at the Colorado House, which is accessible 24 hours a day.  Here, parents can drop their kiddoes off at the on-site Child Enrichment Center while they meal plan and use items from the pantry.  A mom or dad can make an entire week’s worth of food and package it whenever they like.

Along with access to the pantry items and the freedom to make their own meals, the Partners and families are offered freshly cooked, family friendly dinners from Common Cause Catering on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and the first Thursday of every month. The Colorado House boasts a fully functioning, commercial kitchen. We want to grow our food services division and are actively seeking a Volunteer Kitchen Assistant in the evenings to help make that happen!  Families are offered self-sufficiency and skills based classes in the evening.  They usually come straight from picking their kids up from school after work and rarely have time to stop for food along the way.  The families sit down for dinner together, then the kids go play with their friends in the Child Enrichment Center while their parents attend these amazing classes.

Fortunately, our Partners have additional resources to help our Partners to work around their budget. Our Money Mentors help our Partners keep track of their total spending on food including how they utilize their food stamps. The mentors have a goal of helping the Partners stretch their dollars. They discuss with our Partners how the money not spend on food can be put into savings or used to pay off their debt. Along with our Money Mentors, nutrition interns from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs help out as well. They visit with our Partners and converse with them on topics such as eating healthily on a food stamp budget, dealing with food allergies, and the difference between types of produce (fresh, frozen, and canned).

Another one of Partners in Housing’s best resources for fighting food insecurity is the 6 week “Cooking Matters” program offered by Care & Share.  Volunteers from Care & Share host classes that provide one hour of education about nutrition and one hour of hands-on cooking prep-work. At the end of each class, the Partners are given the ingredients to make the meals themselves at home or in the Lowes kitchen. These classes have become quite popular and brought an immense amount of joy to our Partners.

Thankfully, Partners in Housing has had the means to implement beneficial and educational programs to aid our Partners in combatting food insecurity. Tackling a large issue such as food insecurity requires small changes within our community, and we are grateful to have the privilege of helping some of Colorado Springs’ families make those small changes by offering emergency and budget-stretching nonperishable goods, fresh family meal service twice per week, offering the Lowe’s kitchen for weekly meal prep, classes on nutrition and how to cook kid-friendly meals on a budget, budget counseling and money mentoring.  The continuum of services takes a family in crisis and food insecurity to stability and self-reliance.

We could not, however, offer any of those programs without our community partners!  Volunteers run or are involved heavily in every aspect of our Food Service continuum.  We are in high need of kitchen assistants to help prep and serve meals on Tuesday and Wednesday Evenings.  Please contact Marianne at mdunlap@partnersinhousing.org if you are interested in learning more.

 

 

Colorado Springs Homeless Response Action Plan

Last month, city staff developed the 2018-19 Homelessness Response Action Plan featuring “8 Points” to help people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs.   These goals include a work program for people experiencing homelessness, a comprehensive plan to create affordable housing and the designation of more resources to help neighborhoods clean up camps.  This initial plan ignored a very important, but invisible population:  FAMILIES.

We are excited to announce that the city has accepted a proposal to adopt a “Point 9”!  Drafted through a collaboration with Partners in Housing, Catholic Charities, Family Promise, The Salvation Army, and Colorado Health Partners, “Point 9” specifically address the needs of families experiencing homelessness.

The 2018 State of Family Homelessness in Colorado Springs states that the “safety net system for addressing family homelessness in Colorado Springs/El Paso County is diffuse and under-resourced in a number of important areas. Significant gaps exist in emergency sheltering, homeless prevention, transitional housing, and affordable, low-income housing.”  This collaborative proposal (linked above) not only provides data in the scope and impact of family homelessness, but outlines strategies to close these resource and service gaps.  Point 9, listed below, proposes a “20-40 Plan” to increase the number of family emergency shelter units AND 40 new Transitional housing Units.

  1. Add emergency shelter and transitional housing units for families experiencing homelessness.

Homeless families often hide from counts like Point in Time for fear of having their children removed from their care. The more accurate measurement is performed by school districts which are required by the McKinney-Vento Act to perform annual counts of homeless students. The most recent of these counts in Colorado Springs identified 1,117 school age students experiencing homelessness (defined as living in cars, camps and shelters as well as “doubled up” with multiple families or precariously housed in motels).
Colorado Springs has no low barrier family shelter and has limited options that allow families to stay together. 118 families were turned away from emergency shelter between August and October of this year. Similarly, transitional housing providers lack the housing inventory to meet the need. Last year, at least 938 adults and 1,818 children were waitlisted due to lack of space.
According to the Urban Institute, “…ignoring family homelessness today will make single adult homelessness worse in the future, as children who experience long-term homelessness are five times more likely than their peers to become homeless as adults.”
The City will collaborate with service providers with a goal of adding an additional 20 single-occupancy family emergency shelter units and 40 new Transitional Housing units. Alongside agencies that provide homelessness prevention and case management for families, we will work to bring relief for this vulnerable and hidden homeless population.

Thank you to the City of Colorado Springs for hearing representatives of our city’s hidden, vulnerable homeless.  To read the full proposal:  State of Family Homelessness in Colorado Springs

And for more information about the City’s Plan:

https://www.fox21news.com/news/local/city-of-colorado-springs-outlines-homeless-action-plan-in-series-of-town-hall-meetings/1550721592

2018-19 Homelessness Response Action Plan

 

 

 

 

Moving Families Forward Through Food Insecurity

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“I never really knew how to cook, or plan or budget.  Buying McDonalds’s was cheaper and easier than wrestling with 3 kids at the grocery store.”  For families living paycheck to paycheck, budgeting an entire week’s worth of meals is daunting.  “Do I pay for utilities this week, medications, or put gas in the car?  I can scrape together $10 today to buy 10 dollar items off the Dollar Menu, but I wasn’t able to save up enough for a week’s worth of groceries to go to the store.” Food insecurity, which can be defined as the lack of access to an...

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PIH Grants

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PIH Grants

...

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Partners in Housing Receives Grant to Support Homeless Families

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Partners in Housing Receives Grant to Support Homeless Families

(Colorado Springs, CO) – Partners in Housing announced today it has received a $75,000 Daniels Fund grant to support its Homeless Self-Sufficiency Program. Partners in Housing, who has been serving the Colorado Springs community for 25 years, helps homeless families with children achieve stability and break the cycles of poverty and homelessness. Read PIH Press...

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PIH Receives Grant from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado

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PIH Receives Grant from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado

News Release from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado – As we start the New Year with a strong sense of purpose and unwavering commitment to help women and girls in Colorado achieve economic self-sufficiency, we are pleased to announce that WFCO granted a total of $802,000 to 35 organizations in Q4 to help us fulfill our mission. Read our news...

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Gazette/El Pomar Empty Stocking Fund: Partners in Housing Interview

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Gazette/El Pomar Empty Stocking Fund: Partners in Housing Interview

  Gazette/El Pomar Empty Stocking Fund Interview Partners in...

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Support PIH through the CMHS Trees and Wreaths Sale!

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Support PIH through the CMHS Trees and Wreaths Sale!

  This holiday season bring the full density, natural beauty and rich fragrance of Nobel Fir Christmas Trees from the USA to your home. Proceeds are given to The Empty Stocking Fund to benefit many local human services charities, like Partners in Housing! Click on the order form below and thank you for your support! CMHS Trees and Wreaths Order...

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Lowe’s Heros, Partners in Housing Renovate Efficiency Apartments

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Lowe’s Heros, Partners in Housing Renovate Efficiency Apartments

Employee volunteers from five Lowe’s stores in the Colorado Springs area worked with Partners in Housing to renovate five efficiency apartments for homeless families. Lowe’s Heroes provided carpets, padding, cabinets and appliances to give the units a makeover. The apartments are homes to families who work alongside Partners in Housing staff to achieve goals set for themselves. Lowe’s Heroes_Colorado...

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A Place to Call Home

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A Place to Call Home

Partners in Housing has been helping families get back on their feet for nearly 25 years. As Executive Director, Mary Stegner says, “Everybody who comes to us is homeless. Our goal is that they are never homeless again.”...

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A Path Towards Home

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A Path Towards Home

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 220,000 people in families were homeless in 2014 on a given night, making up 37% of the total homeless population counted in the United States that year. Among El Paso County’s homeless population, many care providers have identified a large presence of families. Additionally, the Colorado Department of Education states that there were 2,786 homeless children in El Paso County in 2013. With such a large population of homeless youth and families in our own community, the obvious next...

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