Making Rapid Rehousing Work:
Providers Give Insights on Landlord Recruitment
By Katie Kenney
January 25, 2016
Despite the December end-of-year busy season, the room is packed with case managers, executive directors, and housing specialists – providers from every corner of Connecticut. They are tabled by region, but together the geographical differences fall away. These are the people doing their very best to make a lasting difference in other peoples’ lives. They have all gathered at the “Best Practices of Emergency Shelters and Crisis Services” training hosted by CCEH on December 8th and 9th to workshop strategies for reaching statewide and national goals of ending homelessness for good.
At the front of the room, Kay Moshier McDivitt of the National Alliance to End Homelessness says, “Rapid rehousing is not a program, but an approach.” Not everyone is immediately sold. The Connecticut Rapid Rehousing Program is the major source of assistance funding for shelters and agencies across Connecticut. But McDivitt insists that rapid rehousing can happen outside of the Connecticut Rapid Rehousing Program – and often does.
At its most general, rapid rehousing is any method of quickly housing families and individuals who have slipped into homelessness. The concept grew from the “Housing First” model, first developed in 1988(1). Housing First embodies the idea that people will find much more success when the stress of being homeless has been removed. Rather than waiting for people who are homeless to become “housing ready,” agencies should quickly get them housed and then connect them with services.
The Connecticut Rapid Rehousing Program has become synonymous with all rapid rehousing efforts, but agencies across the state, spearheaded by CCEH, are working to change that assumption. CCEH hosts regular rapid rehousing training and technical assistance meetings welcoming anyone involved in rapid rehousing efforts of any kind. These meetings give providers the opportunity to work together through challenges they face and offer a direct line of communication between the frontline workers and rapid rehousing funders.
This year, in response to growing demand for more targeted resources for rapid rehousing providers, CCEH began hosting training sessions every other month. Already providers have been trained in Critical Time Intervention (CTI) methods, landlord recruitment, tenant rights, client responses to the ongoing three-year Rapid Re-Housing Evaluation led by the UConn TRIPP Center, and Secure Jobs.
Providers are encouraged to share their own successes as part of these trainings. Last week, Samantha Stewart of Supportive Housing WORKS led the presentation on landlord recruitment. She shared some of the valuable lessons she’s learned after two years of trying to connect her clients with housing.
At the start of the presentation, Stewart asked everyone what motivated them in their work. One of the most important things for a provider to think about when contacting landlords for the first time, Steward says, is why we do the work we do.
“What got me interested in rapid rehousing, people I came in contact with really questioned their self worth because of their housing status,” said Stewart, sharing her own example. “And I just thought that was so wrong. You know, just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re worth less than me. And I just felt like there was a real need [to] quickly get those people out of that situation so that they can understand that their worth as a human being is greater than this current situation.”
She continued, “We’ve all had the experience of someone trying to sell us something that they didn’t really believe in. And you can just kind of tell right away that this person’s not authentic and that they’re trying to just waste my time, basically.” She advises to be as real as possible and provide honest information to the landlord.
The other important thing for a provider to do is prove that they are present and reliable. If a landlord feels sure that he or she can contact the provider if any issues come up, they are more likely to want to rent to rapid rehousing clients – and more likely to continue to do so, even after the first tenants have moved out.
Co-presenter, Joel Rivera, Employment Navigator for Secure Jobs at New opportunities, Inc., added his own perspective as a former property manager. He suggested that a great way to build relationships with landlords would be to contact landlords after visiting with clients.
“You don’t have to give them any detail of what you spoke of, but just say, ‘Hey, I wanted to know if there’s any concerns, anything you wanted to talk to me about.” Doing that, he says, would go a long way towards showing landlords that providers care as much about the apartment as they do. Making this call on a regular basis can also help case managers discover and address problems before it is too late.
That relationship between case managers and landlords can save many families from being evicted, which would hurt their chances at finding another apartment. Stewart tells a recent story of one of her clients, who was being accused of breaking her lease agreement by some of her neighbors. The landlord called Stewart telling her he wanted Stewart’s client out of the apartment.
Stewart wasn’t sure what to do, but after brainstorming with other rapid rehousing providers, she decided to visit her client at the apartment. While she was there, she saw no evidence of the alleged activities reported. After the visit, she called the landlord and told him what she saw. The landlord appreciated so much that Stewart went to speak to her client on his behalf that he agreed to give them another chance.
Although not every story of rapidly rehousing clients ends in a success, Stewart feels like she’s making a difference.
“One of the things I always think about is, what if this person were someone in my family?” She hopes anyone working to end homelessness would approach their clients the same way.
You can view Samantha Stewart’s full presentation on Landlord Recruitment by clicking here.
Joel Rivera created a helpful two-page flyer for teaching clients how to be good tenants, to view click here.
For a full resource on the legal right of landlords and tenants, the Connecticut Judicial Branch has released a document on the Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in CT.