Los Angeles County — where the median rent for a two bedroom apart is $1,750 — is an expensive place to live. And with a median household income of $61,338, many residents (about 1.6M) are often forced to choose between paying rent, paying bills, or feeding their family. With that knowledge, it’s easy to understand how 9,205 people fell into homelessness last year.

Ending homeless countywide isn’t just about building enough housing to provide for our homeless neighbors, it’s also about helping to prevent homelessness for our neighbors living in poverty and struggling to pay their bills.

That’s why United Way of Greater Los Angeles partnered with SoCalGas and Southern California Edison this year to create a pilot program called Subsidized Housing Assistance Relief for Energy (SHARE), which offers utility assistance for individuals who are struggling to receive or maintain subsidized housing due to unpaid utility debt.

Alison Wilson is one such person who has been struggling to maintain her subsidized housing in the face of mounting bills on just her social security income.

“In Lancaster, the utilities are so high in the summer. I called for help because my bills were so hard to keep up with,” she explained. “My utility bills get to be about $300 to $350 per month. Everything out here is triple the amount. They charge you a fee if you go over a certain amount and of course you’re going to go over because it’s 110 outside.”

But thanks to The Salvation Army, Alison was able to apply for a grant through SHARE and received nearly $750 to help pay the bills she owed to Southern California Edison. Because of that support, she was able to give her son a nice Christmas and also pay some of the back rent that she owed to her landlord.

“It was a blessing. I’m a single parent with a 16 year old and it was right at the time that it helped me catch up and pay some of the back rent,” Alison said. “It helped me get my son some Christmas gifts and have a nice holiday.

The SHARE program doesn’t just help individuals or families already living in homes, it also helps those struggling to find subsidized housing due to unpaid utility debt.

As the mom to six kids, that’s exactly what happened with Andrea Jackson, who found herself with debt that prevented her and her family from qualifying for the housing they needed to come out of homelessness.  

“I barely got a job so our bills keep on accumulating,” she explained. “It definitely made life a bit easier.”

Now she and her family live in Desert Center, CA, which she says that while a virtual ghost town, it makes her appreciate being away from the “crazy city.”

Since its launch in mid-2018, SHARE has provided support to over 113 housesholds in L.A. County. Individuals who are looking for help can still apply. The program is available until December 31, 2019 or until the funds are depleted.

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