Preventing eviction keeps a dream alive

United Way’s Renew Collaborative gives a family hope for a better future.
June 17, 2024

CINCINNATI (June 17, 2024) — Morganne Ray, a mother of two teenagers, was working as a hospital lab technician but had set her sights higher. She aspired to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN), which meant going back to school.

“There was never going to be a so-called ‘good time’ to do it,” she said. “I just had to pull the trigger.”

In the fall of 2023, at age 39, she began nursing classes. Her daily routine often looked like this: Work as a lab tech from 8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Sleep for a few minutes in her car. Drive home. Catch a little more sleep in the car or in her Winton Terrace apartment. Be at school by 8 a.m. for a full day of classes.

It was too much. Driving to or from school or work, she came dangerously close to falling asleep at the wheel. “My brain said, ‘We are not doing this anymore.’”

At work, she scaled back from full time to coming in on an “as-needed” basis. Then, a month after starting school, she had to reduce her work hours further when her daughter became seriously ill and was in and out of a hospital for several weeks.

The end result: “I couldn’t pay the rent. I was barely making my car payment. And some months, I didn’t make that.” Then her car died.

“I had too many pieces to juggle,” she said. The possibility of eviction weighed on her. “I knew it was coming if something didn’t happen.”

Something did happen. The property manager at Winton Terrace, a Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) apartment complex, referred Morganne to United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC), the lead agency for an eviction-prevention pilot project called the Renew Collaborative.

“The more we can do as a community to identify families that are struggling, early on, it’s better for everybody,” said Moira Weir, UWGC President and CEO. “It’s better for community. It’s better for landlords, but ultimately it’s better for families.”

No one organization can do this work alone, Weir said. In addition to CHMA, Renew Collaborative partners are Boston-based HomeStart, the originator of the eviction-prevention model; GreenLight Fund; and the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Help Center.

Project advocates create custom plans for families to stay in their homes and negotiate with property owners to make payments toward back rent.

“I looked at it like, this is the opportunity I needed,” Morganne said.

She met with United Way’s Renew Collaborative program associate at Winton Terrace’s rental office. He explained the process and asked her to complete paperwork.

In the spring of 2024, she got word that the balance owed on her past-due rent was zero.

“We’re trying to get 100% of families or individuals (enrolled) in this to move forward and be successful,” said Gregory Johnson, CEO of CMHA. “The upfront financial part about rental assistance is a small, small piece of that. That’s why United Way is such an important partner and so important to this community. They . . . are able to bring other services to the table. Philanthropy is important because it allows you to help that person be successful and be a contributor to the community.”

“I’m grateful for the roof over my head,” Morganne said. But she looks forward to the day when she is financially empowered and can choose a home that works best for her family.

Meanwhile, she continues to work toward her goal of becoming an LPN. Despite all the obstacles, Morganne finished her first term with a B-plus average.

“I’ve got two kids who are watching everything I do,” she said. “I want them to see no matter how hard it gets, you keep going.

“I don’t want to ever allow myself to get in the mindset that one day I’m going to be comfortable. When you get comfortable, you get complacent and stop working so hard. One day, I’ll work hard because I want to, not because I have to. That’s what I’m working toward.”


United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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