By Susan Grant
Bethel Next Step Coordinator
A Chattanooga native, Susan has a Master of Social Work degree and is licensed in TN and in GA. She recently retired after 25 years as a foster care worker and court liaison for Hamilton County with the TN Dept. of Children’s Services. She also has experience in education and behavioral health. She is a wife, mother and grandmother and a Bible study leader in her church.
Chattanooga’s Affordable Housing Crunch Hits Single Parents Hard
Bethel Offers Temporary Help for Those in Crisis
Affordable housing in the Chattanooga region is a growing problem, especially for single parents with children.
Last summer, the Times Free Press reported that rental rates in Chattanooga were rising five times faster than workers’ wages. And this month, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise released its “Housing at a Glance” report showing that the average apartment in Chattanooga is now more than 25 percent above affordable housing level.
According to the data compiled by RentCafe, only 2% of Chattanooga rentals are priced at $500 or less per month and only 10% are priced at $700 or less. Those relatively scarce rentals are more affordable for more single parents, but they may not offer an environment that is safe and healthy for a child.
At Bethel, we see young families, often headed by single parents, who have jobs and transportation, but still wind up in a housing crisis because their current housing suddenly becomes unaffordable. Often the circumstances are beyond their control, including divorce, a major health problem or a layoff that lands them in a lower-paying job.
One Sick Child
Single parents are very vulnerable to losing their jobs if they have a child who is going through a season of frequent illness. Daycares won’t care for a sick child and many young moms have little or no sick time. It seems unreasonably harsh to someone who has never lived it, but single moms are often let go from their jobs simply because they have to take time off work to care for their children at home or in a hospital when they are ill.
By the time these moms find and begin a new job, they are in a financial hole and can no longer afford to live where they are. The parents we help never thought that this could happen to them!
Also, there are several factors that work against them. Families applying for apartments often pay an application fee of $25 to $50 that is non-refundable, even if they do not end up being able to rent there. Most places want renters to have a credit score of at least 550, which is not realistic for a single parent who has just lost housing.
Not Just a Rescue — A Future
The Next Step Program at Bethel is designed to provide short-term transitional housing for families with children who wind up in that situation. Unlike many programs, all family members stay together, regardless of gender or age. Next Step provides:
- Very affordable housing in single family homes on our safe Hixson campus
- Help with budgeting and financial planning
- A chance to build back savings
- Emotional support to work through the issues that forced them to lose housing
- Shady yards and playgrounds for children to play in
As Next Step Coordinator, I also counsel each mom on how Christians are to manage their money according to Biblical principles. As they model these Biblical principles for their children, they can also break generational patterns and give their children a better chance at a financially sustainable future.
The Next Step Program is not a hand out but a hand up. Families leave here after about nine months with the knowledge and confidence they need to give their children a stable life in housing they can afford.
To find out more about the Next Step Program, contact Susan Grant.
To make a donation to keep the program running and empower more families in crisis, give here.
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