Families Moving Forward (FMF) saw a sharp rise in Durham’s population of families experiencing homelessness between December 2022 and May of 2023. During that time the number of families without shelter grew from 19 to 39; and there were another 36 families known to be on the brink of homelessness. FMF – a traditional emergency shelter designed to help families move to stable housing in 30-90 days – knew that this one-track approach was not enough to meet the growing need.
FMF started thinking about “rapid rehousing” as a second and faster track to a permanent home for families with fewer obstacles, those who already have jobs, those who have landlord recommendations, and those with no prior evictions on their record. The more they learned, the more convinced they became that this approach to housing families was something FMF must do. By adopting a focused approach to identify and respond to what each family uniquely needs, FMF would be able to more quickly respond to some families’ immediate challenges. Further, for other families with more complicated obstacles to overcome, FMF increased the level and depth of support provided to improve families’ long-term housing stability.
In a recent conversation with FMF about their shift in strategy, Tanya Davis, the program’s Rapid Rehousing Manager, shared, “Previously all families would get a little bit of help on a lot of things and that just wasn’t working for some families. We needed to design a program where we can listen to what families are experiencing and what they need, discover where there are gaps, and then more quickly respond to those gaps.” By right-sizing time spent with families and the intensity of their services, the FMF team can stay with families for as long as it takes them to find housing and never be homeless again.
The City of Durham provided funding to FMF to implement the rapid rehousing track. But they needed other sources of funding to help them fully transition to this new two-track approach. And that’s where Fox Family Foundation assisted with a three-year general operating support grant of $75,000.
FMF Executive Director Tammy Laurence offered her thoughts on why Fox Family Foundation funding made for a good match with FMF’s ambitious goals. “I knew that we needed to structure our organization, not just our program strategy, differently. Fox Family Foundation funding allows us to think creatively and fearlessly as we build an ecosystem that ends family homelessness in Durham.”
It is too early to measure the long-term success of FMF’s new way of doing things; however, some impacts are already obvious. FMF recognized that some kids in their shelter were missing out on fun and play, something each child needs to grow and develop. The agency is now shutting its doors regularly for afternoons of play with foursquare, cornhole, and other games. One mother was assisted in finding a job where she could work at home remotely in order to provide care for her 3-year-old son and father. But she needed to purchase a $250 computer component that wasn’t within her budget, so FMF covered that cost.
Whether providing aid in turning on utilities, finding childcare, or learning new job skills, FMF is giving families the opportunity to dream and, in so doing, is getting closer to the dream of ending family homelessness in Durham.