As a new chapter of post-pandemic life slowly emerges, there still remain huge barriers for the community of people that VEAP supports. Our Social Services team has been busier than ever assisting individuals worried about eviction and distributing rental assistance grants to help keep them afloat. Through April of this year, VEAP has already facilitated $2.1 million in rent assistance. We foresee these levels of support continuing throughout 2021.
What types of individuals and families are needing help at this time?
VEAP’s Social Services Director, Jessica Hering, shares some trends…
- The majority of rent assistance applicants have received assistance multiple times in the past year.
- There is a growing number of applicants who have never applied for rental assistance before. These people have generally dealt with unstable work hours or a loss of income in their family, making it nearly impossible to stay current with rent.
- People who do not have easy access to support systems because of language, physical capabilities, tech literacy, and/or immigration status have had an especially hard time recovering economically and in accessing other resources.
- Household income continues to fluctuate with the pandemic. Many participants are still on unemployment benefits or working reduced hours.
- The state RentHelpMN program opened towards the end of April, and our staff has been helping people apply. It is a complicated process, as the applications requires a level of tech literacy that many individuals simply do not have.
VEAP Bilingual (Spanish) Housing Specialist, Katie Blood, shares more about her recent work:
“During the past year or so, Housing Specialists have avoided meeting with clients due to COVID-19. So when I was able to meet with a long-time client this past week, I was genuinely excited. This client has been receiving rental assistance since July 2020. Her hours fluctuated due to the pandemic, causing a loss of income. She could not apply for unemployment due to her status. Additionally, her husband suffers from chronic health problems that prevent him from working. These factors contribute to her consistent need for assistance.
I met this client in-person to go over the new state application. The application is lengthy. It did not offer Spanish translations at the time (it does now, thankfully). I helped this client with the difficult and time-consuming task of completing this new state application. Although the reasoning for our meeting lay in filling out the application, our rapport from working together for multiple months served as the true takeaway.
VEAP’s caseload increased due to the need found in our communities. At times it feels like we are not able to connect with people as much as before. Despite our limitations, this client and I had a connection. She was grateful to receive the help and to work with someone that knew her situation.
When we reached the end of our meeting, this client and I ‘air-hugged’ before parting our ways. This client will probably need assistance for some time, but it is nice to know that she feels some relief in knowing a VEAP caseworker.“
VEAP will continue to advance our critical programming to ensure people in our community maintain their lifelines to food and housing supports. We thank our partners and donors for supporting this ever-important work.