Bethlehem Housing provides shelter and case management for families experiencing homelessness. Currently, Bethlehem is providing shelter for 64 families and overall served 140 families. They serve families in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemine’s, St. Charles, St. Tammany, St. John and Washington parishes.
In recent months, the Fair Market Rate for housing has significantly increased as real estate has increased. This has made it more difficult to house families. Bethlehem Housing case managers use the fair market rate mandated by government to negotiate with landlords. Fair market includes utilities but some landlords do not honor this.
Bethlehem has been struggling to find affordable housing for clients. Many of the families that they house are unemployed. Recently, landlords are asking for proof of work, employment and background checks. They do not want to rent to unemployed tenants.
Another barrier, Bethlehem has been dealing with is locating housing. There are very few units available. Many of the families Bethlehem works with have large families with five or six children. Because of this, Bethlehem cannot always find four or five bedroom apartments.
The difference between Bethlehem Housing and Section 8 is that Bethlehem is more involved. They do home visits, get to see how families are living and view the property before they move in.
Bethlehem Housing receives referrals for homeless families needing housing from Unity, Children’s Hospital, Catholic clergy, judicial panels and others.
Bethlehem Housing has 45 days to house a family. They can only stay in a shelter for that long. Bethlehem case managers work tirelessly to house families within 15 to 20 days to keep them from living in a car, under a bridge or in a shelter.
Once a family is connected with Bethlehem Housing, a timeline is created for the length of time they will have housing covered. The timeline might be for six months, nine months and 12 months or more. For a family that might be behind on rent, Bethlehem will support their rent for six months; for a family that has started a new job, Bethlehem will support their rent for nine months so they can get back on their feet; and a family that isn’t employed, doesn’t have transportation, has no financial stability, has been homeless for three years, larger families or from other countries, Bethlehem will support their rent for one year or longer. For families from other countries, Bethlehem works with Immigration and Refugee Services to ensure the family has all bases covered.
For more information about Homeless Services, visit www.ccano.org/homeless-services/