Some families have been left without funds to pay for their housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Grace Like Rain, a Denton nonprofit, has taken initiatives to support families in need through providing housing or rental assistance.
“We are a nonprofit that works with families that are facing crisis or [are] homeless by providing full-service, long-term case management services for those families,” said Michelle Conner, Grace Like Rain CEO and Argyle resident.
Conner founded Grace Like Rain in 2016 to provide a sense of community for families in need.
“We help with families directly affected by homelessness,” said Katelyn Billings, Grace Like Rain Chief Operating Officer and Little Elm resident. “There [have] been many families in our program that have created community that don’t have support systems, and they really create those relationships within Grace Like Rain, and that’s made a positive support system for them in their lives.”
Grace Like Rain has been able to personally have an impact on the lives of local families.
“They’ve helped me so much,” client and Denton resident Ty Sizemore said. “At one point, I was homeless, and they helped me get into an apartment. At the same time, I was going through a divorce, and my ex-husband was trying to fight me for my kids, and they helped me with an attorney. I ended up getting my kids. They helped me with transportation, but even better than that, because of all that I was going through, my self-esteem, my confidence, everything was way down.”
Grace Like Rain is providing both physical housing and rental assistance for families during this time, depending on what their needs are.
“We currently operate a shelter up at The Wheeler House, and we have seven rooms there for families, and we’re also partnering with the city, and sheltering some families at a hotel,” Conner said. “We don’t have very many rooms there, but all of those rooms are full. We have 17 rooms for families that are facing homelessness. We are also partnering with the United Way COVID Relief Fund in providing rental assistance for families that need that to stay in their homes, beyond the COVID stuff, and those are the two basic things specific to housing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has left more people homeless than usual in Denton.
“There [are] multiple families that are being affected,” Billings said. “There’s still a high risk of homelessness in Denton. COVID [has] directly affected families [through the] loss of employment [and they] are still needing housing and still needing stability.”
Kim Earley, Grace Like Rain Board of Directors member and Argyle resident, said homelessness is especially prominent for women in the area.
“It’s always an issue because a lot of women come out of abusive relationships or families that don’t support them or encourage them,” Earley said. “They come out of growing up in poverty, I guess you call it systemic poverty. I feel like the need is always there, but I think now especially [for] any woman who was working a minimum-wage job. So many people have been laid off now or furloughed because of the COVID-19, and now [there are] more women than ever who are single moms … who are homeless.”
Due to COVID-19, Grace Like Rain has had to shift its workflow to adjust to the surplus of people in need during this time. Grace Like Rain typically focuses on long-term assistance to form that bond, but it has had to do more one-time assistance, which entails someone coming in once for quick help.
“Because we’ve never really done one-time assistance, that’s been a huge change for us,” Conner said. “We’ve received over 150 applications for rental assistance, so we’ve had to devote two to three staff members specifically to just processing those requests and calling and working with the client sphere, so that’s been a huge need. We are needing to increase our staff size, just because the amount of families needing services and support, whether it be housing, resource direction, guidance [or] moral support has probably doubled, if not tripled in the last few weeks.”
Conner said Grace Like Rain offers a positive experience for those receiving help and those giving it.
“It’s important for the people that are actually giving — I think it helps morale and it helps you to stay in a good mental health place to be able to give back and serve others within the community,” Conner said. “For the people that are receiving the services, it’s incredibly important for us to walk alongside and show support to everyone in this community at this time because we all are one body. If we don’t work together and we don’t help each other then it all bleeds into and affects other people.”
Grace Like Rain’s mission is to provide help and support for people who need the sense of community the most, Conner said.
“We want to be there for [families],” Conner said. “We don’t want to be the end-all-be-all and do all the resources, but we want to be able to connect them to the resources and help them navigate through the system of what’s out there and ultimately, we want to see that family as a whole transform, to where they’re in a mentally healthy, stable place. They are supporting and loving and providing for one another, and then they’re able to pour back into the community of Grace Like Rain and the extended community of Denton County, helping others and serving others.”
Featured Image: Courtesy Grace Like Rain