By Bobbi Mason, MA-Transitional Housing Program Director, Safe Harbor
Safe Harbor was granted funds from the Office of Violence Against Women in early Fall 2009 to begin a Transitional Housing Program for victims of domestic violence. In January 2010, Safe Harbor began to serve the clients in our Shelter Programs by offering them the opportunity to participate in the newly formed Transitional Housing Program that serves 15 families within the 4-county radius that we serve (Anderson, Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville). In this program, participants can choose from living in a housing unit provided by the Upstate Homeless Coalition, or they can choose to live in an apartment of their choice. In both phases of the program, the participants will receive rental assistance payments from Safe Harbor on a decreasing scale. For example: Safe Harbor will pay 100% of their total amount of rent and utilities if they live in an apartment, for 6 consecutive months; then Safe Harbor will pay 75% of the total amount, and the participant will be responsible for 25% of the total amount of her rent and utilities for the next consecutive six months. The transitional housing program will continue assisting the participant with her rent and utilities in this manner, gradually decreasing the amount of assistance each six months until the client is responsible for paying the total amount of her rent and utilities in full after a 2 year period.
Along with the rental assistance piece of the program and thanks to the OVW funding, Safe Harbor is also able to assist the participants in the program with individual Housing Counseling provided by the Upstate Homeless Coalition. With this one-on-one counseling, the participants have the ability to gain the necessary knowledge on how to create a budget, deal with issues with their Property Management companies, become home owners, and more. Safe Harbor also offers the participants an opportunity to receive several other services that include financial assistance with paying for Job Skills Training, counseling, case management, child care, support groups, supportive services and more.
Once the participants have successfully completed their goals and have transitioned into more permanent housing of their choice, they are offered six months of follow-up services so that they can sustain their success. We have already had three clients to successfully complete the program by acquiring their Section 8 vouchers and moving into permanent housing of their choice! All three of these participants have been able to sustain their independence since their exit from our program.
Since January, 2010, the Transitional Housing Program has proven to be an instrument of success for the participants; however, there have been some noticeable challenges/barriers that the participants have faced. Some of those challenges are: lack of furniture to fill all of the units, affordable child care, transportation, finding agencies that will provide financial assistance with past utility bills and deposits, just to name a few. Although Safe Harbor has attempted to find some ways to assist the participants with overcoming these barriers, the need is still there, and it continues to be an ongoing challenge.
If you’d like to volunteer or donate any items or funds to Safe Harbor, please feel free to contact us via our website at www.safeharborsc.org, or you can call us at 864.467.1177 or 1.800.291.2139. Thank you.