New Wake County program aims to stop homelessness before it starts

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County is rolling out a new program aimed at helping people who are teetering on the verge of homelessness.

It's for people like 41-year old "Latia" in Raleigh. We're protecting her identity -- but she invited us in to see how she and four teenage children are currently surviving. The five of them have been living in a two-bed Raleigh hotel room since last Sunday.

"My stress is over the top, just trying to do the best that I can do at this point," she said as every possession the family owns sits piled into these small quarters.

"Latia" is fleeing a bad relationship and in search of a new job. But, things went from bad to worse when the landlord of her rental home decided to no longer accept her government housing assistance voucher.

"He decided that he wanted to sell the property. My lease was not renewed. And we had to vacate the premises," she said.

"Latia" is one of the many caught in middle of Wake County's affordable housing crunch.

Rental rates up are 35 percent and the county's stock of affordable housing units is dropping by 900 a year.

And while federal funds go to the neediest of needy to prevent street homelessness, there's no state money set aside for people like "Latia." So Wake County is launching a new initiative it's calling "Wake Prevent!"

"We has so many people living in hotels, we have so many people who are doubled up or couch surfing. It just couldn't wait," said Wake County Director of Housing Affordability and Community Revitalization.

The program offers rental assistance and case management to Wake families at or below 50 percent of the area median income level ($46,350 for a family of four) and less than 30 days to homelessness.

It's about expanding options for people who aren't homeless yet -- but getting close.

"Now they can send an electronic referral directly to us. An electronic goes right to our intake coordinator who will call that person back and say, 'Hey, I think you might be a fit for our program.'"

Families also have to meet at least one of these criteria:

  • Currently fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence;

  • Doubling up (couch surfing) and told to leave the unit;

  • Notified by the property owner or manager that they must vacate a leased property;

  • Paying for a hotel/motel without assistance; or

  • Exiting an institution (mental/physical health, prison) with no resources or support system to assist upon release.

Sadly, for "Latia", she meets several. Yet, she told us she hasn't lost hope.

"It's a cruel world out here. It's a survival game and it's really hard," she said. "But I just pray everything can be better."

Wake County quietly launched the program on Oct. 1. Tuesday, the county made a full-fledged announcement -- Wake Prevent! is ready to go full-scale, armed with a $900,000 budget.

There are eight sites across the county to apply and an appointment is required.

Access sites in Wake County:
Wake County Northern Regional Center, 919-562-6300, 350 E. Holding Ave., Wake Forest
Wake County Southern Regional Center, 919-557-2501, 130 N. Judd Parkway, Fuquay-Varina
Wake County Eastern Regional Center, 919-404-3900, 1002 Dogwood Drive, Zebulon
Western Wake Human Services, 919-461-4613, 111 James Jackson Ave., Cary
Oak City Cares, 984-344-9599, 1430 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
InterAct, 919-828-7501, 1012 Oberlin Road, Raleigh
Haven House Youth Services, 919-833-3312, 600 W. Cars St., Raleigh, (must be under 24 years of age)
Dorcas Ministries, 919-469-9861, 187 High House Road, Cary
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