Healthy Homes: Affordable Housing

If someone is transitioning from staying outside or in a shelter, they might not know the things to look for in an apartment. They may have limited experience in talking with landlords or advocating for themselves. This is where Willis Dady’s Rapid Re-Housing team comes in. They work to provide up to 12-months of rental assistance with case management to households that have high barriers and are literally homeless. I sat down with our Housing Case Manager, Marin Noska, to learn more.

Q: Do you go with clients to look at apartments before they sign the lease?

Yes, once a client is approved for an apartment we go with them to look at it. We do an inspection to make sure there is water, electricity, no bugs, and everything works. We write down anything that needs to be noted so they can get their deposit back.

Q: What does the rest of the process look like to get a client into their apartment?

After the case manager approves the apartment, they go in and look for three comparables. These are three other apartments in the area that are similar to make sure it’s a fair price. We also work within Fair Market Rent (FMR). These are set numbers within a reasonable range that we have to stay at or under. This is because of our funding requirements and what is best for our clients (explained more later).

When the client is ready to sign the lease, the landlord and tenant also always sign the Violence Against Women ACT (VAWA). I also do a lead safe inspection depending on how old the apartment is. I look for cracks or chipping and the landlord would have to take care of anything if it was found.

Then they are ready to move in. We will reach out to Central Furniture rescue and send in a referral for the client. Central Furniture Rescue will call the client and ask them what they need. If they have it in stock, they are normally able to give it. This can include things like a bed, couch, chairs, lamps, or kitchen items like pots and pans.

Q: How often do you meet with the client after they’re moved in?

We meet with them once a month to go over their budget. The client will watch the case manager fill out the paperwork so they know how much their rent and other expenses are. Three or so months in the client will start paying for part of their rent. By the end of the twelve months, they should be able to pay for all of their rent. They should be self-sufficient.

Q: How would you define a healthy home?

A healthy home is being able to have a space of your own. In college I read “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Wolf. It talks about how people really need their own space to be able to fully function. Unstableness makes it really hard to go to work every day. Having a consistent place of your own is really what a healthy home is; it’s the basis of it. A stable home.

Q: Is it difficult to find a healthy home with a limited budget?

Yes, we’re seeing a lot of apartments that are way above FMR that we can’t pay for. Going above FMR would be setting up our clients for failure because they can’t afford it after the rental assistance ends.

It’s frustrating because there aren’t a lot of apartments less than FMR. There isn’t enough low income housing and we don’t have enough landlords that are willing to take chances on people. It’s frustrating to see clients get denied.

Q: How does rental assistance help clients?

It lets clients build their savings. We want them to be self-sufficient but also understand they are in a difficult part in their lives. They likely don’t have much savings.

Q: Can you explain that further?

I’ve found being homeless is actually quite expensive for clients. I look at their budgets and they need to buy torches, hand warmers, gloves, etc. Things get stolen so it becomes a cycle. You wouldn’t think it would be expensive but it is. You are in survival mode. Plus, most clients go to the gas station because they are available but prices are higher. Rides and getting from one side of town in less than an hour can be expensive. It all adds up.

Q: Why is having savings important to a healthy home?

You never know what is going to happen. It’s always good to have the extra cushion just in case.

Q: What kind of items do clients need to be in a healthy home? How is that impacted by lack of savings?

Clients need to have a bed to sleep well and kitchen items to make food. You need sleep to function. You need food and water to function. Showering might not be technically necessary for functioning but it helps you mentally to feel clean and socially to be around people. There’s that social expectation that you shower every day. Hygiene is important. Clients need pots and pans to eat and cups to drink.

Clients have been spending all their money to stay alive, so they most likely don’t have those items or savings to spend on those necessary items. That’s why we put in referrals at Central Furniture Rescue. They are able to support clients with those items.

Want to learn more about our amazing partner agency Central Furniture Rescue? Check out their website: https://centralfurniturerescue.org/.