CATCHing Up with the Board: Nancy A. Egner
The CATCH by-laws require that some of the Board of Directors are “resident representatives”, meaning those that work with low- and moderate-income people, such as a CATCH resident. As a social worker for many years working to connect folks with housing, or seeing the indirect effects of not having adequate and affordable housing, I certainly qualify!
When I first went to college to study social work 40+ years ago, one of the principle concepts I learned was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is a theory that human needs start with the most basic on the bottom and one is able to have little ability to focus on higher needs until the ones below are at least majorly satisfied.
I have often thought of Maslow’s Hierarchy throughout my career, as it seems so basic, but is so very relevant. It basically states that physiological needs are the most essential for all human beings. If these are unmet or not met adequately, there is little foundation to hope to accomplish or achieve anything further up the chart, that each level is built on the ones below.
Physiological needs include housing. If you don’t know where you will be sleeping each night, or are struggling to keep your housing costs low, or your housing is inadequate and the roof leaks and there are bugs everywhere and your children are not safe in the neighborhood, it is very difficult to get to work each day, to maintain your car to get to work each day, to get you and your kids to medical appointments regularly to maintain your health and mental health, to be involved and support your kids in their education, etc. If someone is not adequately and safely housed, there is little hope they will have much ability or opportunity to work on relationships (including parenting appropriately) or educational needs, or obtaining satisfying employment and furthering their careers, or self-esteem needs. Housing is indeed a very basic need. Over the years, it has been documented that unfortunately affordable housing is increasingly becoming more and more scarce and increasingly unattainable for many.
Those that I have often worked with through my career are the chronically mentally ill. The average disability check for the clients I have worked with is about $800-$900 a month. It is virtually impossible to obtain reasonable housing in the Concord area if your income is only $900 a month. The state statistics report the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Merrimack County is about $1,200 a month. And the vacancy rate for open apartments is below 1%. A ‘healthy’ vacancy rate is reported to be about 5-7%. At 1%, that means that many people are chasing very few offerings and the competition is very steep. Even for those that have on-going employment, and make moderate income, affording rent at $1,500 a month or more for a 2-3 bedroom is very difficult. Thus, the increased need for workforce housing, or affordable housing for those with moderate incomes, which CATCH is so good at creating.
In the various jobs I have had over the years, housing has often been a central part. From assisting folks that are ready for discharge from a psychiatric hospital in obtaining housing in the community, to assisting folks in maintaining their housing so they are not in jeopardy of losing it, to finding ways to establish subsidized and affordable supportive housing resources through my last position as the executive director of Fellowship Housing Opportunities, the position that I held when Rosemary asked if I would consider being a board member for CATCH. So I guess I come to this position of being a board member of CATCH from a career-long place of passion and enthusiasm to try and support those that are working to fulfill an essential need as much as possible. I see CATCH doing a great deal towards offering folks resources and services they need. I am always very impressed by the work the staff do, and the commitment and expertise the other board members lend towards this mission. It is and has been an honor to be part of this organization.
Nancy A. Egner, LICSW, MPA is currently a Behavioral Health Clinician at Heater Road Primary Care, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the tremendous work you do to care for our community, Nancy!