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MIFA: Connecting families with stable housing
Testimonial on MIFA's work in connecting families with stable housing
Posted on 08/22/2019
By Leah Kraus, Digital Content Coordinator

In FY18, MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) connected 258 families representing 278 adults and 641 children with permanent stable housing in Memphis. The organization is one of the recipients of the City of Memphis’ Emergency Solutions Grant, made possible by federal grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

MIFA receives $301,800 for the grant yearly, to help rapidly rehouse families who are experiencing homelessness. The Homeless Hotline (901-529-4545), operates 24 hours, seven days a week (excluding holidays which are covered by voicemail). Callers are provided a phone-based screening to determine whether the family is or is about to become homeless. Families are then instructed in how to access shelter and/or rapid rehousing assistance through the MIFA Emergency Shelter Placement Program. Families found to be unsheltered during after-hours and for whom mediation was not successful, receive a direct referral to a shelter.  Information and referrals are provided to any caller who needs other community services, as well. 

The goal is to have a single point of entry to access shelter and prevention services.  Family shelter providers admit families into their programs only after prevention has been ruled out and they have received a referral from MIFA.

“We try to move clients through the system as quickly as we can,” Kimberly Mitchell, Administrator with the City’s Housing and Community Development division said. “We’re going to help you by asking what it is that you need to get stably housed.  They tell us what their needs are, and we’ll try to see if we have the resources to provide it to them.”

We sat down with Linda to hear her story and learn how MIFA helped her find stable housing. 

I came to Memphis on a contract for a non-profit job. In my background, I’ve worked with homeless people. When I got there, they lost the contract. They gave me an apology and said they could not find a placement for me. That put me instantly on a job hunt. Because of my background and what I’m used to making, I kept hearing I was overqualified. When we got here, I was living off income tax refunds and we were staying at a motel. My first thing was to make sure my babies were in school full-time. So, I got them registered for school and paid $400 for uniforms. I took that hit and then paid the motel we were staying in about $75 every night. I was there for almost a month-and-a-half and one night my card just stopped swiping. 

Linda and familyThe motel didn’t have a refrigerator or a stove, so every day I was going to shop -- buying just enough but not too much so I wouldn’t spoil the food. I was filling up gas in my car. I had depleted all the funds that I had. I have no family here. 
The lady at the motel saw me and my kids in my car in the parking lot one night. It was about 10 at night and the kids kept asking “why we can’t go in?” They kept saying they were tired and ready to lie down – “why can’t we go in?” I told them “just take a nap and relax.”  I’m trying to stay calm – you can’t explain to children financial stuff because they don’t understand. My gas light is about to go out and I can’t keep running the air in my car so I roll the windows down and you can hear them crying out of the car. The lady on the night shift saw me and came and knocked on my window and said, “Why are you not coming in?” And I said “I don’t have any more money, I can’t afford tonight. I’m just going to sit here, talk to God, and figure it out.” She said, “OK well, I’m going to go up here on the second floor, I’m going to un-lock the door and I’m going to walk off” and she said “whatever you do, that is none of my business, but I’m going to leave that door open for you. Just don’t tell anybody what I did because I’ll lose my job.” 

We slept there for the night and she told me to call the Homeless Hotline in the morning. I dropped the kids off at school and rushed to work. MIFA could find me housing right away. They said, “when you get off work, go straight to the Salvation Army.” I went and I felt safe. We stayed there and then went to different housing for a week. Last Christmas I adopted three families. I’m not used to being broke. I’m not used to not having money. I’m not used to not being able to help people. This is something that I’m just not used to.  Now I’m in a situation where life happened and I can’t stop it. I can’t do anything about it. 

I work from 8-5 which left me Saturday and Sunday to house hunt. I told the worker “but I’m working. How am I supposed to find a place to live?” I would eat up my lunch hour trying to find places. I kept losing houses to section 8. It started feeling so discouraging, but we finally found a place and I could move in. 

I’m used to being the one that said, “I can help you do this, I can connect you with this person,” but my experience thus far has humbled me. I literally fed my kids off $10 for three days just by going to Dollar Tree. I can’t tell you how many times I washed uniforms in the tub. You can’t cry in front of kids. You can’t let them know that you don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t let them know you’re scared. You can’t let them know you don’t have a plan. I left my home with a plan that I was getting transferred into a job. None of this was supposed to happen. And just like that, life happened. And all I can do is thank MIFA. The fact that MIFA went out of their way for me and it has been genuine—that means something. 

For more information on MIFA, click here

To read another testimonial on MIFA’s good work, click here.
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