Program Eyes Suburbs for Needy Families
By Mark Ferenchik The Columbus Dispatch
A new program geared toward moving low-income, single-mom families into stable housing and neighborhoods will begin taking applications Thursday.
The Move to PROSPER project is an initiative of Ohio State University’s City and Regional Planning program and other partners. (PROSPER stands for Providing Relocation Opportunities to Stable Positive Environments.)
The 10 families chosen for the pilot project will live for three years in apartment complexes in the Hilliard, Olentangy, Dublin and Reynoldsburg school districts. The families will include one to three children ages 13 or younger, at least one of whom goes to school.
The goal is to get the families closer to jobs and schools and to improve their access to transportation and grocery stores. Employers have a difficult time hiring workers who can’t get to their jobs, said Amy Klaben, a local housing consultant and Move to PROSPER’s project facilitator.
Rachel Kleit, the steering-committee chairwoman for the program, said the applicants must be “housing insecure,” meaning that they spend more than half of their income on housing.
“Housing stability itself helps people do better in their jobs and their health,” said Kleit, the associate dean for faculty affairs at Ohio State’s College of Engineering.
The program also includes coaching to help families in their transition, Klaben said. That includes financial and career assistance.
Karen Mozenter, chief operating officer for Jewish Family Services, said her agency will help the women develop career plans and address other challenges.
“The goal is that within that three-year period, we not only make sure they retain their jobs but also help them explore new opportunities,” Mozenter said.
Families will be placed in apartments owned by Casto Communities and the Kelley-Weiler Partnership.
Michael Kelley, a principal in the Kelley Cos., said Columbus remains an economically segregated city.
“We’re looking at studies nationally that living in so-called opportunity areas can be impactful on the trajectory of a person’s life,” he said.
According to Move to PROSPER, children growing up in stable households in these areas are more likely to attend college and earn $302,000 more in their lives than those who don’t.
A 2013 nationwide study by economists from Harvard University and the University of California-Berkeley found that low-income children in the Columbus metropolitan area had just a 5.1 percent chance of reaching the top fifth of household income by age 30. That made Columbus one of the least-promising areas in the country for kids who start at or near the bottom to climb out of that financial hole.
In February, a new program was established to offer rental assistance to pregnant central Ohio women to help reduce the infant-mortality rate here by helping them obtain stable housing.
Klaben said the project has raised $355,000 toward a goal of $536,000 for the pilot program.
Ultimately, the team wants to raise enough money for a three-year, 100-family program.
Funders include the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, the Columbus Realtors Foundation, the Columbus Area United Way, the Columbus Foundation, Fifth Third Bank, Ohio State University, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Jewish Foundation.
To apply, go to www.movetoprosper.org. firstname.lastname@example.org @MarkFerenchik