ADA COUNTY, Idaho — A number of local organizations, including CATCH, are working to end homelessness with many working together to find solutions.
CATCH works with local shelters to help people experiencing homelessness get back into housing, but as the need increases, they're getting creative to keep up.
"I was up against being homeless, maybe finding a shelter and that with my young son who was only 11 at the time," Mindy Wilson, a former CATCH client, said.
Mindy decided not to stay at a shelter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Her and her son, valor were actually living in a tent next to Winco on the greenbelt when they got connected with CATCH," Garrett Kalt, the Director of Development for CATCH.
CATCH was able to help Mindy and her son find a place to stay through its 'Taking Root' program.
"That is a program that's designed to help families that are staying in cars or shelters, get back into housing and stabilize in housing," Stephanie Day, the Executive Director of CATCH said.
The program includes assistance to find housing and transition.
"When they're in our program, they are paying a portion of rent and then we are paying another portion," Kalt said.
The goal is for the household to eventually become self-sufficient.
CATCH also runs the housing crisis hotline.
"Anybody in Ada county that's experiencing a housing crisis, whether they're a family or adult-only household, can call here and then we help them figure out which resources in the community they're eligible for and how to connect to them," Day said.
The need is growing.
CATCH said before the COVID-19 pandemic they would have an average of 150 families in Ada county experiencing homelessness. During the pandemic, that number doubled. Now there are an average of 230 people in Ada county experiencing homelessness.
"We were fortunate enough to receive some federal funds to be able to increase the amount of support we were offering to the community, which means we have doubled in size in the last couple of years, and we are hoping to be able to stay at this level," Day said.
But while that federal funding will run out in the fall and the need for assistance will not, adding to the challenge, it's becoming more expensive to get a family into stable housing.
Before the pandemic, it cost catch about $5,000 to house a family. Now it costs about $7,500.
"Our families are having to pay higher amounts of rent than they normally would have," Day said.
CATCH used to make sure families were paying about 30% of their annual income on rent. This is the nationally recommended makeup of expenses. Now, many families are having to pay 60% of their annual income on rent.
"Income did increase a little bit over the last year or so, but not at the same rate that housing costs increased," Day said. "So it's taking longer to house people but then also, once we house them, stabilizing is becoming a lot more challenging."
Before the pandemic, it took families about five months to become self-sufficient in paying their bills and rent, now it's taking families nine or ten months.
CATCH said they're getting creative to meet the need.
"What we're trying to do is we've created some incentives to landlords so that they could offer a little bit lower rent," Day said.
This includes a damage fund and a vacancy fund.
"If someone leaves a unit before their lease is up and they're willing to move another one of our families into the unit, we'll cover the cost of the time that the unit's being turned over," Day said.
CATCH is also trying to get creative with fundraising to ensure they can keep up with demand. They have several fundraisers going on right now and throughout the year.