Story Monica Pierce
Photography Emma Thompson
Ada County’s CATCH programs are rooted in the belief that homelessness isn’t something you are, rather it’s something you experience. No one wants to rely on others to take care of them but sometimes individuals who experience trauma or other personal setbacks have lost the confidence and resources necessary to be able to manage on their own. The CATCH program is designed to walk beside these individuals, supporting them in their return to a place of independence.
CATCH serves as the lead Coordinated Entry agency under the umbrella of Our Path Home, a public-private partnership aimed at ending homelessness in Ada County. Managed by the City of Boise, Our Path Home Connect brings together all local organizations who are working to end homelessness. There are currently 36 agencies partnering through Our Path Home. For those seeking services, instead of having to navigate an uncoordinated system of dozens of nonprofit and government agencies, Our Path Home Connect serves as a single point of access for them to find the help they need. Our Path Home also gathers comprehensive and invaluable data on homelessness and provide it to government agencies and local service providers, to ensure everyone is aligned and working together to solve the problem.
In addition to operating Our Path Home, CATCH also offers its own services called “Rapid Rehousing”. Through Rapid Rehousing, qualifying families receive assistance in securing housing which can include housing location services, advocacy, financial assistance with application fees, deposits and rental assistance, and case management. Rental assistance and case management are tailored to the needs of each family.
Research shows that if reliable housing can first be established, any follow-up support services are much more effective. Through CATCH, once a family secures reliable housing, a case manager works with them to resolve the underlying cause of the homelessness they’ve experienced. This can include help with financial planning or job training; whatever the family might need in order to work towards long-term stabilization.
With the ultimate goal of achieving independence, the Rapid Rehousing program helps families conquer the obstacles that are keeping them from getting back to such a state. The two main causes of homelessness in Ada County for families are domestic violence and loss of housing due to the rental property being sold and the monthly rent subsequently increased to an amount the family cannot afford. Although the national recommendation is for a household to spend no more than 30% of its monthly net income on housing, CATCH aims for 30-50%: a target that is increasingly hard to achieve as the cost of living in Ada County continues to rise.
According to Stephanie Day, Executive Director of CATCH, there are typically about 170 families on Ada County’s waitlist for housing plus another 550 adult-only households. CATCH Rapid Rehousing is able to serve about 80 families and house roughly 50 families per year, with an average period of five months of rental assistance. The program currently serves only families as a matter of prioritization.
First established in 2006 by the City of Boise, the CATCH program became a nonprofit in 2010. Due to its substantial need for funds (it currently costs an average of $5,500 to stably house one family), the CATCH program is funded through a number of sources. CATCH receives 50% of its funding from federal and local government grants, 25% from foundations, 10% from corporate donors and the rest from private donors and through fundraising events such as CATCH the Flavor, Idaho Gives Day and Avenues for Hope.
With its proven approach to solving homelessness, the Rapid Rehousing program has attracted to its staff a number of professionals who are passionate about supporting our community in this way. Earlier this year, Boise native Rachel Flachbart left a career in corporate sales to join CATCH as the program’s Development Manager. After years of volunteering in the community and working with children in schools, Flachbart witnessed first-hand the devastating effects homelessness can have specifically on children. When she learned of the CATCH program, she knew she wanted to join the effort to help as many families as possible.
In addition to dedicated full-time staff like Flachbart, CATCH also welcomes community support from those who want to help end homelessness in the Treasure Valley. You can help by giving financially, donating goods, or contributing your time.
To learn more about the services offered or how you can support CATCH – including the fundraising campaign, Avenues for Hope, coming up in December – visit www.catchidaho.org.