Earlier this year, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas launched an innovative new pilot program that seeks to address a long-standing problem. The Targeted Eviction Prevention Project (TEPP) provides direct cash investments and other resources for families in Southern Dallas with the goal of empowering them to stay in their homes so their children can stay in their schools.
It is the first program of its kind in North Texas to provide direct cash investments to families to prevent evictions.
TEPP is an important part of our Homeless Prevention and Intervention Initiative, which provides a continuum of services to address the complex, income-related challenges that often result in homelessness. By ensuring local families can stay in their homes, TEPP supports our three focus areas—education, income and health—because a stable home enables kids to do well in school, adults to succeed at work and North Texans of all ages to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Since we launched TEPP in January, it has already had a profound impact on housing and education for the participating families. Read on to learn more about the program and how it is helping to prevent homelessness right here in North Texas.
An Innovative Approach to Preventing Homelessness
TEPP is a partnership with Child Poverty Action Lab, CitySquare, UpTogether, Dallas Independent School District, TR Hoover, Texas Women’s Foundation, Carter’s House, Harmony CDC and ForOakCliff.
Prior to launching the program, the TEPP partners identified five schools that experience a high percentage of mid-year student moves and are in communities with high eviction rates. The project is focusing on families with students at Billy Earl Dade Middle School, Joseph J. Rhoads Learning Center, Dr. Martin Luther King Learning Center, Elisha M. Pease Elementary School or J.N. Ervin Elementary School. These schools have reported that 33% to 46% of their students change schools or leave school altogether in the middle of an academic year.
Working together, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and our partners are providing resources to hundreds of families in these communities with a goal of preventing evictions. By keeping families in their homes, TEPP aims to prevent mid-year student moves and encourage stability and continuity in children’s education.
Over the course of the three-year pilot, TEPP families will receive unrestricted cash investments of $250 every month and have access to various resources, such as legal assistance; access to a housing specialist; and a resource repository and training videos for school staff to assist teachers, counselors and school leaders in pointing families to timely relevant support.
“Creating housing stability for families is key to a student’s success in school,” said Ashley Brundage, executive director of housing stability and senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Not only are evictions traumatic for mothers and children, but multiple moves are associated with lower school engagement, poor grades and high risk of dropping out of high school. By investing directly in a family’s need to maintain housing, we can influence the health, education and future income of a child.”
Creating a Real Impact in People’s Lives
Throughout the course of the program, TEPP organizers will be in touch with the participating families to understand how their households are stabilizing and advancing through social and economic mobility. Already, several members have reported how the money and other resources have impacted their lives:
- “The funds come at the beginning of the month, which allows me to put [them] toward rent to avoid late fees and eviction threats.”
- “Since we don’t get any government assistance this [little] bit has help[ed] with keeping up with our bills, buy[ing] groceries, go[ing] to the doctor, etc.”
- “Paying off student loans.”
- “Saving to pay bills for next month. Buying toys for the kids without feeling guilty of saying no.”
- “This money allowed me to pay my utilities in full instead of just putting some on there with the little I have. It also helped me get my kids little thing[s] to participate in school, such as on costume day. I…can afford little stuff like that after I finish paying bills so they don’t feel left out or let it show that we have less than others sometimes.”
- “It [allowed] my children to participate in after-school activities.”
- “I was able to provide more tutorials for my kids, therapy for us all, and I was able to get health insurance.”
A Focus on Trust and Dignity
The TEPP pilot project—which is funded by The Perot Family Foundation, Siemer Institute and the Muse Family Foundation—is the latest program to feature unrestricted cash investments directed by UpTogether, a national anti-poverty organization. The nonprofit highlights, accelerates and invests in the initiative that people in financially under-resourced communities are taking to improve their lives. With United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and other TEPP partners, UpTogether is championing a community-led movement to boost long-term economic and social mobility in communities that have been undervalued for far too long.
“The unrestricted cash investments are critical for families currently challenged with tough decisions about where their children will eat, sleep or even go to school,” said Ivanna Neri, partnership director at UpTogether. “Through this pilot, families in Dallas will receive additional cash without the burden of having to pay it back. We feel trusting and investing in families is key to housing stability.”
The strength-based approach emphasizes the importance of trusting recipients of these cash investments as the experts in knowing what decisions matter most for themselves, their households and their children. By giving unrestricted cash, TEPP seeks to instill dignity and create an opportunity for families to thrive.
Historical research by UpTogether shows where unrestricted cash payments are spent:
- 74% of recipients invested the money back into their family on essentials, including food, housing and utilities.
- 26% used their funds to help family or friends.
- 21% used their funds to help their community, which included giving food and groceries, sharing information or skills, and providing transportation.
These types of programs can have a profound impact on participants. UpTogether reports the following outcomes from households that received unrestricted cash payments from them before the COVID-19 pandemic:
- 88% reported improvement in their child’s grades.
- Families increased their savings by an average of $665.
- Families saw a 23% increase in monthly income.
- They averaged a $600 increase in their retirement accounts.
Be a Part of Our Housing Stability Work
Housing instability is a significant problem in North Texas, and it often leads to homelessness.
Studies show that nearly half of all Texans spend more than 30% of their income on housing, which means they are housing insecure. Meanwhile, the 2022 Point-in-Time Homeless Count found that more than 4,400 of our neighbors experience homelessness on any given night. One of the best ways we can prevent homelessness is by keeping people in their homes—and programs like TEPP are doing just that by creating housing stability and preventing evictions.
Ending homelessness is a goal that we can call work toward together. We invite you to join the movement to improve housing stability for all North Texans. Here are three easy ways to get involved:
- Give: Donate to United Way Dallas to support housing stability and eviction prevention initiatives.
- Advocate: Call your representatives and tell them you support affordable housing throughout our community. And be sure to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts to receive information on our top policy priorities, such as affordable and equitable housing.
- Volunteer: We frequently host volunteer events that support housing stability and homelessness prevention. Fill out our general volunteer interest form, and we’ll let you know about upcoming programs that fit your interests.
This article was published on: Oct 27, 2022