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Housing for families

YWCA program to help homeless families stay together opens in March

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The YWCA plans to open a new project in mid-March for homeless families that's designed to meet an unaddressed need in Charlotte.

The Families Together program will house as many as 10 homeless families in three- and four-bedroom townhome-style units behind the YWCA's Park Road offices.

"We've already started to identify and work with families," says Kristina Egger, the YWCA's marketing and development director. "We're really excited."

Shelters in Charlotte generally serve either men or women and children, making it difficult for fathers to stay with children, or mothers with teenage sons.

The YWCA's project is meant to help keep together families, who make up about 43 percent of the area's homeless population, says Rebecca Stickel, director of Families Together. "The basic criteria is that families have at least three members, and they have at least one minor child, and that there is a reliable source of income," Stickel says. "For most of the families that [income is] working."

Most families will have incomes about 30 to 50 percent of the area median income -- between $17,000 and $32,000 a year. For such families, typical market rent for a three-bedroom apartment is often far out of reach.

Families will pay rent that's no more than 30 percent of their income. They will also work with a caseworker on financial planning and other skills to help them achieve self-sufficiency. "That's a huge part of the program," Stickel says.

In that respect, it's much like the YWCA's successful Women in Transition program, which provides dormitory-style housing, job counseling and other aid for women who've been homeless. Stickel expects the average stay to be about the same -- ten months to a year -- though families may stay up to two years.

The program will be funded in part by United Way donations. Private donations and support from religious communities make up the rest. The YWCA also has started a gift registry at Target.com so donors can buy household goods for the units.

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