The family of nine – with children ranging in age from 16 to 2 – was evicted from their apartment after Sledge fell behind in paying the rent because of mounting medical expenses.
They were in the motel for just over a year while Sledge juggled two part-time jobs and took her daughter an hour and a half away for dialysis three times a week.
With an eviction on her record, Sledge said it was difficult to pass a credit check to move out of the motel and into permanent housing, even though she was bringing in enough money to pay the rent.
“It was just a lot that was required,” she said. “Nowadays, they want three months’ rent upfront.”
Open Doors specializes in helping people in these types of dire situations.
The nonprofit operates as an intermediary, bridging organizations trying to transition people out of homelessness to apartment managers with vacant units willing to accommodate issues like low credit and other barriers to getting approved for a lease.
Open Doors represents over 600 multi-family apartment complexes in the region and partners with 140 nonprofits helping people who need affordable housing.
Since its founding 10 years ago, the organization has helped nearly 11,000 people find housing.
The nonprofit is now expanding on that success with a new program, Housing Support Navigation, to assist housing-insecure individuals.
Executive Director Matt Hurd explained that these are families who “might be living doubled up at a friend or family member’s home or living month to month, and any increase in expense or any change in their income means they’re going to find themselves homeless.”
When Open Doors learned about the Sledge family, they reached out to offer assistance.
“This is a family that seems ideal for us to help,” said Development Director Kim Wolfe.
“It’s a story we’ve heard many times before where expense such as a medical expense, or a car breaks down, or a child gets sick, that there’s something that pushes a family that’s living so close to the edge already, and pushes them over the edge.”
Wolfe said that eviction is a barrier to housing that is difficult to overcome without the help of an organization such as Open Doors.
Programs Coordinator Cheri DeBose contacted Sledge, who agreed to let the organization help. After hearing what Sledge needed for her large family, DeBose helped place them in a 5-bedroom, 3-bath house. They live closer to their support system and have cut the dialysis trips in half.
“She absolutely found me the perfect home,” Sledge said. “Everything I wanted in a home is in this house. It was like from my lips to God’s ears.”
DeBose checks on the family periodically to ensure everything is going well and they can keep up with the rent and pay their other bills.
Sledge has a GoFundMe account that has helped with mounting medical expenses. These financial donations are part of the family’s ongoing housing budget.
“One of the things that we’re happy about at Open Doors is that housing is one less thing on Ms. Sledge’s to-do list, one less thing to worry about,” DeBose said. “With that taken care of, she can focus on her daughter and what she needs as well as the other children and getting them what they need.”
“Have to think about housing first; other things can happen later,” she added.
Open Doors stays connected to the families they help for the first year, which, according to their research, is the riskiest relapse period.
“If we can just get them through that first 9 to 12 months, they are far more likely to stay stably housed when they sign their lease for the next year,” Hurd said.
Most families don’t require long-term support, he said. As long as they have sustainable income, they can stay sustainably housed.
Open Doors’ newest program, Housing Support Navigation, has been piloted slowly over the last 12 months. Working alongside partnering organizations, such as the Fort McPherson and the City of Atlanta, this program works to help those that are housing insecure by filling a housing gap and helping families who do not qualify for housing assistance, but, due to circumstances, need affordable housing.
HOW TO HELP
Learn more about Open Doors: opendoorsatl.org
To help the Sledge family, go to Ebon Sledge’s GoFundMe at gofundme.com.
To learn more about donating a kidney for J’Adore: Emory Healthcare Living Donor Program at emorylivingdonor.org.
Readers who are interested in being screened to be a living donor for J’Adore will need to include her name (J’Adore Sledge) and her birthdate (04/23/2013).