In 2012, when Cindy Taufa moved her family to Utah to escape the growing cost of living in California, she never expected her large family to end up homeless.
But last March, the Salt Lake City duplex they were living in was sold. The 42-year-old certified nursing assistant who supports nine children including her infant granddaughter by working two jobs, was given 30 days to find new housing. But that proved to be difficult, she said.
“It’s hard to find housing when you have that many people in your family,” Taufa said.
Taufa’s family spent almost a year staying with friends’ homes for a few days at a time and in hotel rooms, until a school counselor put her in contact with Mike Harman, the Salt Lake City School District’s homeless liaison.
From there, Harman connected her with Utah Community Action, a nonprofit that has been working since 2017 to get students experiencing homelessness and their families into stable housing.
In February, the family was finally able to moved into a six-bedroom house. Taufa said she is relieved to have their own place again.
“I don’t like being a burden on people,” Taufa said.
Utah Community Action helps families experiencing homelessness including those doubling up with family and friends, like Taufa was, or living in motels, cars, camping grounds and other public places.
Patrice Dickson, the organization’s chief operations officer, said Utah Community Action has been able to help 51 families and 121 students get into housing.
On Friday, the nonprofit received a $105,808 grant from Salt Lake City that will allow it to do the same for at least 12 more families.
“This incredible gift from Salt Lake City is going to help us continue that for a year … and to find those that are in need and to help them reach self-sufficiency,” Dickson said.
Last year, 12,011 students, or 17% of all Utah public school students, reported that they were experiencing homelessness, according to data provided by the Utah State Board of Education. The Salt Lake City School District has identified 873 students experiencing homelessness this year.
The school district refers those students and their families to organizations like Utah Community Action that can provide them with resources and tools to get their lives back on track.
Utah Community Action connects those families with landlords of low-income units and also assists them with rent and housing deposits, Dickson said.
Many of the families that Utah Community Action works with have jobs and a source of income. But after families lose housing, it becomes difficult for them to put down deposits on a future home, she added.
Aside from housing assistance, Utah Community Action also offers adult education, Head Start early education and nutrition programs.
The grant awarded Friday will also allow Utah Community Action to expand its level of services and increase collaboration with local schools, Dickson said.