Eagle Valley Family Assistance Fund extending extra help for locals’ housing
The EVFAF is one of 19 local nonprofits receiving money from the Vail Valley Community Fund
For 27 years, the Eagle Valley Family Assistance Fund has helped more than 700 Eagle County families in need keep a roof over their heads. Since March, the need has shifted into high gear. Fortunately, so has the help. EVFAF is a relatively unknown and unsung nonprofit in the community that does exceptional work. The nonprofit was created and launched by locals Linda and John Galvin.
While the onset of COVID-19 has impacted every corner of Eagle County in some way, those community members who were already fighting to make ends meet and who now find themselves out of work are among those hit hardest. In the current circumstances, many of these individuals and families are unable to collect unemployment and have not, like so many Americans, received stimulus checks or PPP loans to help lighten the financial blow.
The EVFAF, which normally offers noninterest-bearing loans to families struggling to secure and maintain housing, has received $200,000 from the Vail Valley Foundation’s Community Fund, which in addition to housing assistance is directing financial support to nonprofits on the frontlines of mental and behavioral health, domestic violence, youth education and food insecurity. This money, in the form of grants, has been going directly to locals who have lost work and need help paying rent.
“The EVFAF is the perfect example of a nonprofit that stepped out of its normal mission work and business model to address the crisis in our valley,” said the Vail Valley Foundation’s Mike Imhof in a release. “The VVF Community Fund, which has quickly accumulated more than $1.2 for local nonprofits, could give 100 percent of the money raised to housing assistance alone, and it wouldn’t be enough. The magnitude of the problem we’re facing, it’s heartbreaking. It feels like a raindrop in the ocean. But doing nothing would not be acceptable. EVFAF being an entirely volunteer board, with no paid staff is even more impressive. They stepped into the void, and have made a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of families in our valley.”
According to EVFAF Vice President Alexia Jurschak, the situations of applicants receiving rent help from the grants distributed thus far truly provides perspective on the struggle afoot both before and after the pandemic hit.
“We had a single mother of an infant. She still resides in the same apartment with her abusive ex. She felt if she didn’t come up with her portion of the rent she’d be in physical danger. She was requesting half a month’s rent,” Jurschak said. “We had a mother of two; she and her husband supported themselves through a cleaning business. The business stopped March 30 and they came to us after they both tested positive for COVID. The need out there is unbelievable. It’s not just financial assistance we are providing right now. It’s emotional assistance.”
When applicants apply for grant money, EVFAF undergoes a thorough but quick vetting process to validate their need, interviewing landlords, property managers and employers.
“I spoke to a property manager to confirm funds and he said not one unit in the building he oversees was not affected by the pandemic. Someone living in every unit was furloughed, had lost a job or was losing a job. We don’t see it on the surface, but it’s out there,” said EVFAF President Fraser Horn. “This is a service-oriented economy and it’s not an easy place to live for some people even when the economy is good. I’m talking about people working everywhere in any job they can find and also kitchen staff, cleaning crews, bar staff, restaurant and hotel staff. If we can help these people who are truly the backbone of our economy, we should help them.”
To date, the Vail Valley Foundation Community Fund has distributed needed grants to Bright Future Foundation, Catholic Charities Western Slope, Colorado Mountain College Foundation, The Cycle Effect, Eagle Valley Child Care Association, Eagle Valley Community Foundation, Eagle Valley Humane Society, Eagle Valley Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, Lake County Community Fund, The Literacy Project, My Future Pathways, SOS Outreach, Swift Eagle Charitable Foundation and Trio Therapy Partners.
“Housing and mortgage assistance as a nonprofit segment is really under resourced,” Imhof says. “It became so apparent in March, the volume of people struggling with housing was skyrocketing. The great thing about EVFAF is they can take care of any resident, no matter where they’re from or their documentation status. They’re helping a lot of people right now and every dollar stays right in the valley.”