What would it take for you to find yourself homeless? This is the question Ross Altenbaugh, director at Hilliard House, posed to me at our first meeting. It’s hard to think about — but try to imagine it. Considering the number of Americans who received pink slips this year, we all know someone whose position was determined: non-essential. What if you couldn’t find another job? What if you couldn’t find one that paid enough? What would happen when the money ran out? What if you couldn’t go to your family? How long could you stay with friends before you were no longer welcome? What would you tell your kids? When Ross asked me this, I couldn’t help but think of a Richmondmom.com post a few years back called “Dinner on a Frisbee” in which Michelle Garcia writes about how quickly she “slipped from a beautiful four bedroom house to residing with my three children in one room at an emergency shelter.” “Families need stability to thrive and we believe it starts with permanent housing,” said Altenbaugh. “You may have a world of problems, but you can tackle them all if you have a solid foundation.” That’s exactly what Hilliard House is all about– creating stability quickly through rapid rehousing. The idea is to get the family out of the emergency shelter and into a permanent home as quickly as possible. Thanks to the network of partners with whom Hilliard House collaborates, many families are able to find homes immediately. It isn’t easy. Many families served by Hilliard House are viewed by prospective landlords as undesirable due to poor work histories, prior evictions, bad credit, and felony backgrounds. There are families who have experienced repeated episodes of homelessness due to inadequate support and poor coping skills, often the result of domestic violence. Hilliard House helps families address these barriers, beginning with the resources to maintain housing. Providing families with access to the supportive services they need reduces the cost of evictions, minimizes the use of community homeless services and eliminates the costs associated with job turnover and foster home placement that can occur when vulnerable families fall apart. Hilliard House recently housed 31 Richmond families in 100 days as part of a National Alliance to End Homelessness project. Let me repeat that: 31 families in 100 days. Hilliard House ranked third in the state for their rapid rehousing efforts, despite the fact that they were one of the smallest organizations to participate. Always ready for a new challenge, Altenbaugh has upped the ante. Hilliard House is committed to finding housing for 55 more families in 2014. Want to help?