After leaving rural North Carolina for jobs in the Triangle, Chris and Jess struggled to support themselves and their two children. And after Jess lost her job, homelessness became a real possibility. The couple turned to Family Promise of Wake County, which helped them find a three-bedroom apartment they could afford.
But even with a place to live, the cost to furnish an apartment can add up. Enter the Realtor Foundation of Wake County, which outfitted the family’s apartment with everything from furniture to pots and pans.
“Chris and Jess moved into this apartment, and it was skeleton furniture at best – very old, very tattered,” said Heather Thompson, director of operations and development for the foundation. “We were able to set them up so they could sit at a table and enjoy a meal together as a family.”
Since January 2017, the Realtor Foundation has partnered with Family Promise and two other nonprofits, Families Together and SouthLight HealthCare, to furnish 20 apartments for families recovering from homelessness.
“These nonprofits are the ones in the field; they’re the ones who know what the need is,” said Thompson. “We go to them and say, ‘How can we help these families transition from homelessness to stability with hope and dignity?’”
The answer to that question is often to bridge gaps in services, providing manpower and financial support, she says. To furnish Chris and Jess’ apartment, volunteers from the foundation bought and moved “a houseful of furniture” from The Green Chair Project.
The foundation’s mission is to improve communities through this combination of volunteers and donations from members of the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors. Since 2007, the foundation has invested more than $500,000 toward this goal.
The Realtor Foundation cites the following statistics to highlight the need for housing support:
- 25 percent of all families in Wake County are cost-burdened. These families spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
- Being able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Wake County at fair market rent requires a minimum hourly wage of $19.10 for a full-time employee.
- Fewer than 10,000 of almost 500,000 rental units in Wake County are affordable by low-income families in the absence of a subsidy.
“Realtors know that ‘home’ matters,” said Thompson. “They want to be invested in their community, and they want everyone to have the opportunity to live and work in the community. Everybody needs a place to call home.”
The foundation also partners with Haven House Services/Wrenn House, Healing Transitions, Inter-faith Food Shuttle, Methodist Home for Children, Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen and other nonprofits.
Among their many projects, volunteers on the Realtor Foundation Service Committee build access ramps for seniors, serve meals to the hungry, plan affordable housing workshops and events, and organize food and USO drives.
For information about the Realtor Foundation, its efforts to build a stronger community and how you can help, visit http://www.rfowc.org/.