Keeping San Diego's families off the streets -- that's the focus of a new program that's already helped dozens of local families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. And for one local mother, the help arrived just in time.
Jenny Gibson lives in Fallbrook, she’s a single mother of a teenage son. Gibson was laid-off more than a year ago from her job with a non-profit organization. She never imagined she'd find herself so close to becoming homeless.
"I've always been on the other end of helping other people and when it came to me I was like, ‘oh my goodness I can't believe this is happening.’ I just kind of felt lost like what do I do?" Gibson said.
A tireless job search has, so far, been unsuccessful. Gibson said she kept her concern hidden from her son as long as she could because she didn’t want to worry him. But she was finally forced to break the news.
"It became very serious to the point where I was going to lose my housing," Gibson said.
Jenny Gibson found new hope through a County program that's using federal stimulus funds designated to help local families in need -- providing much needed rental assistance and services.
The program works as a partnership between the County Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, and the County Office of Education. HCD received more than $1.9 million in federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program.
The County has teamed up with local schools to help identify families facing a financial crisis that could lead to homelessness. County officials are working with homeless liaisons in more than 30 local school districts within HCD’s jurisdiction, which includes the unincorporated areas of the county and the cities of Coronado, Del mar, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Poway and Solana Beach.
“It’s wonderful because homeless prevention and rapid rehousing provides a resource we haven't had before,” Dolores Diaz with the San Diego County Housing and Community Development said.
Since November, the program has helped more than 30 families like Jenny Gibson’s. The County Department of Housing and Community Development expects to assist about 150 local families with the funding. 60 percent of the funds must be used within two years and all of the funds must be used within three years.
Michelle Lustig with the San Diego County Office of Education said one of the main goals is to keep kids in school.
"It gives them a chance to focus on their education and not the trauma that's going on in their family because of the economy or other factors that have led or are about to lead to homelessness," Lustig said.
Jenny Gibson's financial help runs out after a year. She knows the clock is ticking but hopes the boost will give her the time she needs to get back on her feet.
“It's just awesome. It just allows you more time to get yourself together…So you go from strong to being weak and not knowing and then getting reenergized so that's where I'm at," Gibson said.
If you think you may qualify for help through this program or know someone who might benefit, contact your local school district for application information or visit the Housing and Community Development web site.