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Editorial: Mortgage payment helps families in need

6:49 PM, May 21, 2013  |  Comments
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Helping out families during times of need can take many forms - from assisting with hospital bills to providing meals for a time-stressed family.

The nonprofit organization Spare Key helps by making one housing payment of up to $1,800 every 12 months for families that qualify.

That payment can make a huge difference for moms and dads looking to spend time away from work and in the hospital with a sick child.

"It was one less thing to worry about at the time," said Emma Slowinski, an English teacher at Ashwaubenon High School.

She and her husband, Michael, logged many hospital hours after their son Abraham was born in February. Born with a diaphragmatic hernia, Abraham had to undergo his first surgery eight days after he was born. More surgeries followed. He ended up staying in the hospital for three months.

The May mortgage that Spare Key paid provided "a little buffer while we try to figure our new situation out together," Emma Slowinski said. "It was a great program and it was really helpful to us."

The Slowinskis heard about the program from a social worker at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who recommended they apply for the housing payment.

The program is more well-known in Minnesota where it started in 1997. Usually referrals come from hospital social workers, said Erich Mische, executive director of Spare Key. He was the Green Bay area last week talking with area medical providers about the program.

Buy-in from the medical community is key because hospital social workers can recommend it to parents who might not know about the program or even realize they qualify for that type of aid.

Spare Key is not meant to be a long-term solution, but it gives parents some breathing room. Parents are able to redirect that housing payment money to other bills or take time off work so they can be with their child, which is the goal of the program.

Parents can apply online and Mische said the process is simple, as Spare Key doesn't want to add to the mountain of paperwork families face during a hospitalization.

The program this year expanded into North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Since it started in 1997, it has helped 1,800 families by making housing payments totaling $1.8 million. The funds come from private sources, Mische said, and about 76 to 77 percent of the money raised goes to families in need.

Many of the families Spare Key helps wouldn't be looking for assistance if not for the medical emergency. "The families we serve would typically not qualify for other programs out there," Mische said.

In other words, it helps those families that would slip through the cracks - earning too much for federal and state aid, but not well enough off to avoid some financial hardship.

We hope the area medical community helps get the word out about the program. Helping parents be there for their children is valuable assistance and should be encouraged.

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