This week the Faith & Family Homelessness team is in sunny Yakima for the 24th Annual Conference on Ending Homelessness. We are joined by more than 600 people from across the state who all believe homelessness should be rare, brief and not repeat. Let me tell you, it’s pretty cool to be surrounded by so many people who are working hard to make ending homelessness a reality.
We woke up this morning, enjoyed a great breakfast and keynote and headed to our first workshop of the day: Partnering with Landlords for Placement & Retention. By the time we arrived the room was packed. I’d like to say I was surprised, but I’m not. My experience tells me that service providers are eager to find ways to work with landlords to successfully house families experiencing homelessness.
We all know this: families can’t move out of homelessness without housing. Many believe one of the best ways to move families quickly out of homelessness is to recruit more private landlords to rent to homeless families. Based on my experience, I believe there are many caring property owners who would like to rent to families experiencing homelessness – but don’t. I understand the reasons why landlords might be hesitant; most homeless families face barriers to housing that can seem insurmountable.
During today’s 90 minute session, experienced case managers offered examples of innovative ways they partner with landlords to house homeless families while saving time, frustration and money. Their message to the crowd… housing homeless families in rental property can result in a win-win situation.
When a landlord partners with a nonprofit agency a built-in support system is in place to help families succeed in housing. Families who are housed with housing resources like Section 8 or Rapid Rehousing are offered tools like payment plans to help stay on course. In addition, service providers work with families to develop a plan to move towards self-sufficiency through employment.
The most critical resource offered by case managers to landlords is their ability to resolve problems with the tenant before they escalate. Families work with case managers to engage in programs and classes that address their most challenging problems. These can include tenant education, parenting classes, conflict resolution, financial planning, mental health and substance abuse treatment. Families are also encouraged to build a social support network, which can help prevent future episodes of homelessness.