Preventing homelessness and housing instability as well as providing a path to self-sufficiency are the goals of a new local program.

Manhattan Housing Authority is launching a Bridge to Housing Stability program which looks to leverage over $2 million dollars in federal and state funding to rapidly rehouse and stabilize approved residents experiencing homelessness. BHS case manager, Karen Martinez, a single mother of two who was once laid off and often worried about not being able to pay rent, talks more about her story.

“I was scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do, I have two little kids I have to take care of,” Martinez says. “I couldn’t get unemployment yet because I had to wait. There was not too many people there for me to turn to, so I would love to be able to be there to help somebody that feels like they have nobody.”

Housing Authority Executive Director, Aaron Estabrook talks more about the program, which he says uses a housing first model

“Everyone has problems. If you don’t have a roof. your problems get even worse,” Estabrook adds. “Once you start satisfying that housing first or approaching that problem and finding the solution, we can work on behaviors. We can work on different things. Everybody’s going to be always working on themselves in some capacity. You can never truly achieve that unless you have a roof on your head.”

Martinez adds more about the housing first mentality.

“I know what it’s like to worry about where you’re going to sleep at night and you don’t feel safe,” Martinez says. “If I can help someone find safety and feel secure then they can start working on other issues they have going on or other concerns.”

Colleague and case manager, Natalie Waldo, echoes the story of Martinez. She says as a single mother of three who faced housing difficulties, she is excited to see a program like this locally and grateful to be a part of it.

“We have different resources to help, you know, with mental health and those kinds of things, but trying to help somebody keep a housing and keep their kids in a home and them in a home, and just one less barrier that they have to take care of, I needed to be there,” Waldo adds.

BHS peer mentor, Romeo Vega says growing up, very poor, in Los Angeles, he was just 17 years old when he was facing homelessness. He says this program gives him a sense of belonging. He says when he moved to Manhattan in 2015 he found that the community really cares and he wants to pay that back.

“It’s going to allow me to do what that one person did for me, you know, fifteen years ago, which was get me out of that situation and to help me grow. All people need is that one chance, that one opportunity, that one helping hand to make a world of difference. It can completely change their life to see that somebody cares.”

Martinez, Waldo, and Vega, tell KMAN housing instability hits too close to home for them and they want to be that bridge for somebody.

In order to qualify for the BHS program you must be a Riley or Geary County resident and meet the eligibility criteria as a Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance referral. To learn more, visit

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