Imagine being one minor car repair away from being unable to pay your rent. That’s the reality faced by many of the participants in Housing Assistance’s THRIVE program.
Launched last June, THRIVE (Tools to Help Residents in a Vulnerable Economy) assists Cape Cod residents who are struggling to pay for housing and other bills while employed in childcare or working with people with developmental disabilities.
“These are people who are doing their best to make ends meet,” said Heidi Archibald, senior director of the Housing and Consumer Education Center and leased housing. “They are working their butts off and get trapped by the circumstances of life like a car repair. You can’t get to work if you don’t fix your car, and you can’t fix your car if you’re not making enough at work.”
The program’s 18 clients each get a monthly stipend of $450 toward their rent for up to 24 months. It’s critical funding for workers who are typically low paid, despite being an essential part of the Cape workforce.
“They are genuinely grateful to be getting this opportunity and I know that to a person they would want to say thank you to those who funded it,” said Shannon Pyne, Housing Assistance’s communityeducator and lead housing counselor. “It’s giving them an opportunity to get their head above water.”
Each participant meets regularly with Pyne for a housing counseling session. They also create an action plan, which is an outline of goals to work on throughout the year.
“The action plans are specialized for each household,” said Archibald, who oversees the program. “One person may say, ‘I want to create a savings account for the first time, because I’ve never had one’ and somebody else may say, ‘I want my savings account to hit $10,000 so I can have a down payment for a home.’”
Pyne talks to each client about their financial history and struggles. “The stipend allows them to take some time to think about where they are and where they want to be,” she said.
The next step is participating in Housing Assistance’s Money Matters financial literacy class, which gives them baseline skills in household budgeting. “It’s a judgment-free zone, but we’re giving them some tools to analyze how they’re spending their money,” said Pyne.
Pyne also helps some of participants get access to fuel assistance and other resources.
“If you’re struggling in one area, you’re struggling in every area,” she said. “A lot of people have tightened their belts to nothing. All of them are severely rent burdened. They have different goals, but the common theme is housing stability.”
Funding for the first year of THRIVE came primarily from the Cape and Islands United Way Ronald Reed Endowment Fund, the Bilezikian Family Foundation and the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod Charitable Foundation Trust. The second year of THRIVE will be primarily funded through an ARPA grant secured by State Senators Julian Cyr and Susan Moran. Additional funders include Cape Cod Healthcare and the Arethusa Charitable Trust of the Cape Cod Foundation.
The THRIVE program is based on a successful pilot Housing Assistance conducted from June to September of 2021 with 10 clients from seven employers. Even in that short time, participants demonstrated they were able to reduce debt, start savings accounts, improve their credit or create plans for eventual home ownership.
“This comes at a time when I found great difficulty securing housing here in Provincetown and at an affordable rate,” a pilot program participant wrote in a thank you note to Housing Assistance. “I’m delighted that a program like this one exists and helps address the affordable housing problem here on the Cape. I look forward to pursuing my action plan in the program and learning from the informative sessions. Please extend my thanks to your colleagues.”
The 18 households currently enrolled in THRIVE include 21 adults and 11 children. Funding allows up to 40 households to participate.