Families with children facing big medical challenges are getting help with their housing bills thanks to a program that's new to North Dakota.
Spare Key covers a single mortgage or rental payment for parents of seriously ill or critically injured children.
The idea is to help families who find themselves needing to travel to a far-off hospital or spend days and weeks supporting and caring for a hospitalized child.
Spare Key began in Minnesota in 1997 and expanded into the Dakotas and Wisconsin in the past year.
So far, the group has made mortgage or rental payments for 16 families in North Dakota.
(Erich Mische, Spare Key Executive Director) "We have no income guidelines so we help a lot of middle income families who if it wasn't for a medical crisis would never look for help. The other piece is we operate statewide so most of our referrals come from hospital social workers, so we work very closely with hospitals. And the third piece is that it's not about what the illness or injury is, it's really about how long has the child been hospitalized."
In total, Spare Key has made more than 550 payments for families in 2013, more than double its previous high for any year as the non-profit group expands to new states and finds new funding sources.
If you know of any families that might qualify for a Spare Key payment, contact the hospital where their child is being treated.