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Posted on: April 12, 2024
Cherie and three of her grandchildren.

Cherie P.’s journey from homelessness to stability showcases the powerful impact of holistic eviction prevention services. Facing trauma and displacement, Cherie’s family endured cycles of hotel living, eviction threats, and financial instability. Thanks to St. Vincent de Paul’s Motel to Home program, Cherie received vital assistance, including financial education, housing support, and furnishings, leading to the acquisition of a stable home. Despite setbacks such as a back injury and financial strain, Cherie’s resilience, aided by SVdP caseworker advocacy, prevented eviction and maintained housing. Today, Cherie is recovering and pursuing employment, reflecting the effectiveness of programs like Motel to Home in ensuring housing stability for vulnerable families. Read Cherie’s Full Story

Investing in Hope: The Crucial Role of Homeless Prevention Services


Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)

Recent news headlines documenting the record number of cost-burdened households, people experiencing homelessness, and widespread housing unaffordability are distressing. In Georgia over one million households are extremely housing cost-burdened, spending almost 50% of their income for housing. This high cost-burden combined with any emergency such as an illness, accident, loss of employment, etc., all contribute to the inability of a neighbor to pay their rent or mortgage and at risk of eviction and homelessness.

Homelessness is a costly, complex, and multi-faceted issue that is harming individuals and communities. While traditional efforts focus on providing shelter and support for those already experiencing homelessness, there is a crucial and often overlooked intervention that St. Vincent de Paul Georgia recognized long ago: homeless prevention services.

To give concreteness to the concept of “homeless prevention services,” the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recognized and documented the impact of effective homeless prevention in their 2003 study with Walter R. McDonald & Associates, Inc. (WRMA) and its partner, Urban Institute (UI). Their examination of Continuum of Care (CoC) applications provides a description of strategies and component activities that provide measurable achievements in preventing homelessness and evidence of effective eviction prevention activities, including:

  • Cash assistance with rent, mortgage, or utility payments
  • In-kind emergency assistance (food, clothing, transportation vouchers, and occasionally furniture and medical care)
  • Strategies that involve more than one public agency working together (childcare, child welfare, mental health services, budget, and credit counseling, etc.)

For individuals and families who are currently housed but are at imminent risk of becoming homeless, the human and financial toll impacts every measurement associated with thriving people, households, and communities. The return on investment in preventing homelessness includes a more stable family environment, sustained independence, and the ability to contribute to our social fabric; all of which result in stronger, more livable communities.

The Human Cost of Eviction

The current high cost-burden of housing combined with any emergency puts poor families at risk of eviction. These families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and any illness, accident, loss of employment or reduction of hours, loss of a relationship, or unexpected car repair can leave them unable to pay their rent. This begins a snowball effect, with added late fees and eviction court costs making it even more difficult to avoid eviction. Without financial assistance, eviction is almost inevitable. The immediate loss of shelter is just the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Renters who experience the toxic stress and time-consuming process of a forced move are more likely to lose their jobs. Evicted mothers experience higher levels of parenting stress, depression, and poorer physical health in addition to greater financial hardship. Sociologist Matthew Desmond describes the toll of evictions as unevenly distributed, with female-headed households, households with children, low-income renters, and renters of color being disproportionately affected. Research by Childrens HealthWatch and others indicate that homeless children experience developmental delays, poor health outcomes, hospitalization, obesity, attention and behavior challenges, depression, and anxiety.

Evictions also destroy credit scores and disqualify families from being able to obtain a new lease. Struggling families are thrown into chaos which often leads to emotional turmoil, disrupted education for their children, strained relationships, and a pervasive sense of instability that permeates every facet of their lives. The eviction crisis is not solely a housing issue; it is a crisis that undermines the very foundation of family life.

Evictions Harm All of Us

The impact of evictions extends beyond individuals and families and profoundly affects communities by raising housing costs and decreasing quality of life. Landlords, often forced to raise rental rates to recoup the financial losses associated with evictions, make housing even less affordable for remaining low-income tenants.

Neighborhoods plagued by high eviction rates experience increased crime, decreased community cohesion, and a diminished sense of well-being. Evictions put demands on law enforcement, mental health providers, the judicial system, emergency shelters, public assistance programs, and emergency rooms. Schools struggle to deal with high rates of student mobility that strain school resources and impact the overall educational experience for all students, lowering academic achievement. All of this could be avoided if we could simply stop evictions before they happen with targeted direct financial assistance.

Breaking the Cycle

It is often said that the cure for homelessness is a home. St. Vincent de Paul could not agree more and has been working to break the cycle of homelessness in Georgia for 120 years. Mariel Risner Sivley, Director of Housing Programs at SVdP Georgia, in describing the strategic approach, “Every neighbor who turns to us for help has a unique story and set of circumstances. Our goal is to understand their goals, their burdens, and obstacles. When we help them craft an “action plan” for recovery, each unique situation is aligned with the help of immediate financial assistance provided today and the hope we can inspire for tomorrow, utilizing holistic family stabilization services.”

Our civic partner Cobb County and municipalities around the country recognize the impact of evictions and homelessness on community well-being. In late 2023 the Board of Commissioners voted to form the Housing Stability Court, a revolutionary new accountability court targeting the county’s eviction crisis. The value of this new initiative, as described by Cobb’s Chief Magistrate Brendan Murphy, is that it “will bring resources to bear so folks can lift their families to a better situation.”

By targeting eviction prevention, we can stop the downward spiral before it begins, preserve the dignity of an individual, and prevent the trauma and social dislocation associated with homelessness. Preventing homelessness stabilizes families and protects our communities.

Holistic Support

As noted by HUD’s 2003 study, effective homeless prevention goes beyond mere financial assistance to addressing a range of factors contributing to housing instability. At St. Vincent de Paul, our trained volunteer caseworkers meet with at-risk families in their homes to obtain a holistic view of their situation. They spend time as a trusted neighbor listening to the unique story of each neighbor in need, helping them craft an action-plan to overcome their current setback.

Often, that means direct aid for rent, utilities, car repairs, etc. There is also access to other St. Vincent de Paul programs such as our food pantries, community pharmacy, and thrift stores to help them reduce their monthly expenses. They are connected to other community resources for job training and employment support, healthcare and mental health services, tenant education and legal assistance. This wrap-around casework provides emergency support to vulnerable families while helping them build the infrastructure required to support long-term stability.

Cost-effective Solutions

Preventing homelessness is not only a compassionate solution but a financially prudent one. As described by HUD, the services costs necessary to help people get back into housing and to overcome the economic, social, mental, and physical damages caused by experiencing homelessness are much higher than the costs of simply preventing its occurrence. Since most households can avoid homelessness with limited assistance, the cost savings generated by an efficient prevention program can both reduce the need for and reliance on emergency solutions.

Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunity (LEO) has concluded that every $1.00 invested in homeless prevention puts $2.47 back into the community. The cost of providing emergency shelter and services to those already homeless is significantly higher than the investment required for prevention. These resource savings from eviction prevention efforts can serve other critical community needs. By directing resources towards homeless prevention, donors and funders can maximize their impact, creating a more sustainable and cost-effective solution.

Time to Act

Sadly, not every family that contacts St. Vincent de Paul for homeless prevention assistance can receive help as demand far exceeds our resources. Your support for homeless prevention services is an investment in the future, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond the immediate beneficiaries. Your contributions and investments have the potential to transform lives, strengthen communities, and break the cycle of homelessness. By investing in hope, you provide the support needed to ensure that every individual and family has the chance to build a stable and secure future.

For 120 years St. Vincent de Paul has continued to successfully serve neighbors across Georgia with the goal of eviction prevention when they encounter emergencies that stress their already cost-burdened households. The impact on the lives of neighbors who have become and remain stably housed and their communities is measurable. With further investment, together we can make a lasting impact on eviction prevention and shut the door to homelessness once and for all.



Denise Fisher, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia Board President, and Vincentian at St. Benedict Conference. She is member of the St. Vincent de Paul National Homelessness Prevention Committee, charged with providing guidance and best practices in homelessness prevention and shelter diversion to councils and conferences.

Bea Perdue, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia Senior Philanthropy Director. For more than twenty years she has consulted with corporations, cities, states, and development revitalization projects to build and deliver programs that improve outcomes for underserved individuals and their communities.



2003 HUD study with Walter R. McDonald & Associates, Inc. (WRMA) and its partner, Urban Institute (UI).

2024 Georgia Housing Profile, Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock

Georgia State of Housing Report, Georgia Chamber of Commerce,

Housing Needs by State (Georgia), National Low Income Housing Coalition,

Strategies for Preventing Homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research,

Targeted prevention helps stop homelessness before it starts, Tracy DeStazio, July 13, 2023, Notre Dame University,


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