How We Help

The Importance of Housing

One of the most common phrases social workers use is “housing first” because without housing, clients can be difficult to locate and their homelessness can lead to a host of health, safety, and other challenges. It is extremely difficult for social workers to help someone change their situation and find a path to a better life if they are not in stable housing, which is why housing is often a social worker’s first step with a new client.

Beyond its importance to individual clients and a successful social work strategy, preventing evictions is also good for society overall. Stable housing means stable schooling for children, which is an early indicator of their future standard of living. Studies have also shown that it often costs 3-5 times as much to help re-house a family after an eviction forces them into the shelter system.

Even before COVID-19, HUD’s 2017 Worst Case Housing Needs Report to Congress found that more than 8 million households with very low incomes pay more than 50% of their household income for housing costs; leaving them unable to pay for child care, medicine, transportation, food, and other basic needs. The report also found that for extremely low income households – those which make less than 30% of the median income – there are only 33 affordable units available for every 100 families who need them.

Combining the shortage of affordable housing with the fact that 40-60% of renters are considered low income, it’s clear the housing situation in the U.S. puts many households at an increased risk of homelessness. For many it just takes one unexpected expense – such as a car breakdown, reduced work hours, or medical problem – to put their housing at risk. NeighborRelief aims to prevent evictions and reduce homelessness in the U.S. by providing a solution that allows donors to contribute directly to a qualified neighbor’s rent.

The Importance of Smartphone Access

While it may not be immediately apparent, mobile phones are now considered to be a critical basic need. Over the past few decades mobile phones have gone from being nice-to-have to being an absolute necessity. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who own a smartphone has increased from 35% in 2001 to 96% today.

For many low-income Americans, smartphones are their sole source of communication and internet access. Smart phones are critical to their ability to apply for jobs and interview with employers, call a doctor, conduct banking, learn, work remotely, reach help in an emergency, locate resources and much more. Furthermore, they very rarely have a computer or tablet on which they can rely if their phone service is disconnected.

Many social workers consider smartphones to be critical to someone’s ability to succeed in an increasingly digital world. There is even some debate about what is more important between housing and a phone. In a homeless situation, if someone at least has a phone they are reachable by nonprofit staff, loved ones and others who can help them.

Having and maintaining service has a profound impact on a person’s livelihood and stability, which is why we have included mobile phone service as a category of need on NeighborRelief. Through a partnership T-Cetra, we are positioned to support phone bill payments with over 50 major cellular carriers in the U.S. With the help of the community, we can ensure everyone in America remains reachable no matter what difficult situation they may be going through.