Update: COVID-19 & Homelessness in Greater Nashua

A Q&A with Doug Howard, Housing Stability Program Manager

The Front Door Agency’s Housing Stability Program helps individuals and families maintain their current housing or obtain a new, permanent residence if homelessness occurs. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, demand for these services has significantly increased.

From March 2020 when the pandemic began through December 2020, we served 96 households (a total of 193 individuals) through our homelessness prevention and emergency housing programs.

Tell us about the types of families that received homelessness prevention services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, we have helped many families and individuals who have never needed housing assistance of any kind before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

At first, many of the families that received homelessness prevention services were able to make ends meet with access to extra relief funds through unemployment. But when those supports stopped, they were forced to reach out to local organizations like the Front Door Agency for help paying rent and utility bills, or assistance finding housing. Essential workers who cannot afford full-time childcare also had to make tough decisions about whether they should go to work and leave their children unsupervised all day (sometimes all night) in order to earn an income.

For the homeless families that came to us without a permanent address, the pandemic really highlighted the lack of affordable housing in Greater Nashua. While we were able to re-house a number of families and individuals experiencing homelessness, each case had its own difficulties.

What is one client story that stands out to you, and is representative of those you’ve helped during the pandemic?

Jess is a single mother with 3 children (under 12) who came to us seeking rental assistance as she had fallen behind in rent due to her job being furloughed at the start of the pandemic. She was able to keep up with rent through the extra funds coming from unemployment, but once that funding stream ended, she fell behind to the point her landlord had no choice but to serve eviction paperwork. She was able to start working in December, full-time and remotely, but at that point she was not able to catch up on what she owed to her landlord. We were able to eliminate the debt Jess owed to her landlord and are providing short-term rental assistance so she can catch up on bills that were neglected and give herself some breathing room to make future rent payments.

Income levels to qualify for services through the Emergency Housing Grant (ESG) have changed as a result of the pandemic. Can you tell us more?

It is very hard to hear someone talk about how well they were doing until the pandemic occurred and then the wheels fell off. For situations like that, it’s clear by their pay stubs that things were, indeed, just fine. Nobody could have planned for this and it hurts to know how frustrated people are.

Thankfully, over the past year, new lines of funding became available to support people who have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Before the pandemic, families would need to be categorized as “extremely low income” to qualify for emergency housing services through the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG). This means that a family of three had to earn less than $30,000 per year to qualify. But that amount has increased to provide extra support to families that have been impacted by the pandemic. Now, A family of three can earn up to $49,950 to qualify for services.

How has the Greater Nashua community supported you in your role at the Front Door Agency?

Having worked in several communities in New Hampshire, I believe that Greater Nashua is on top of their game in terms of working together to help those in need. There is great leadership throughout Nashua non-profits and other assistance programs. Beyond the leadership at the top, those working directly with clients have always collaborated in order to meet the needs of the community.