Landlord partnerships with homeless

What makes a person lose housing options? Can it really happen to anyone? For the general population homelessness does not become chronic because a lot of people have the relationship skills to get housing again, eventually. Housing is a relationship between tenant and landlord. Chronic homessness that’s unintentional is a relationship problem. I’m not saying this to blame anyone, sometimes the relationships are intended to be impossible.

For tenants the main relationship problems are: 1. Non-negotiable leases regarding late payment or partial payments, 2. Changes on income causing instability 3. Rent and housing expenses greater than 30% of income, 4. Ineffectient heating cooling/high power bills 5. Inability to house friends/family in unstable situations temporarily.

For landlords, the main relationship problems are: 1. Chronic Late or no payment 2. Fighting with neighbors 3. Addiction that brings bad behavior and “friends” to the place 4. Destruction of property.

All of the above lists cause problems with the landlord/tenant relationship.  After working with about 20 FUSE people who “can’t be housed” because of chronic issues with the above, I agree that there is a segment of the houseless that need more than a signed contract to stay housed. Some people cannot and will not consistently honor property relationships. That’s a “can’t do, won’t do”, as I say when parenting my teens.

The supportive housing advocates working with “can’t do, won’t do”  can see the burning bridges between these tenants and the public and private landlords well before the fires. Housing with more public and private landlords isn’t the solution if there is not some intensive and individualized case management that accompanies the lease. Some people termed “FUSE” need a 3rd alternative.

Supportive housing: housing with intensive, periodic and sometimes daily case management is needed to house people who cannot stay housed on their own. The support is through a sympathetic landlord, payee, housing case manager, community healthcare worker and,  if needed, outpatient addiction therapy.

Housing is not a right here in the USA. It’s not a right in Butte, MT. Currently in our housing market, some people are considered too dangerous to house by landlords.  The “too dangerous to house” include those who have serial evictions, use IV drugs, have prior history of destruction of property, significant mental health issues and have a history of threatening neighbors and landlords.

After a year of working with people with the above description in a program designed to identify the real barriers to housing for the individual. We found that people really have unique circumstances that require supporting relationships with healthcare, housing advocates and community involvement to stay housed. I’m hopeful that with the right housing available, most people can be safety housed.

I am doubtful that the right housing is available exclusively through individual private landlords. Like most places in the US, private landlords are looking for ways to limit their losses incurred by renting to risky tenants and some are taking their units off the long term  market by converting units to short term to avoid having to deal with low income renters. It makes financial sense to do so as well currently.

What doesn’t make financial sense is renting to extremely risky tenants who don’t have support. These risky tenants do require increased skilled healthcare, police and social services care from emergency services when not housed.  The social liability and expense is paid for through social services.

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The dream housing solution would be varied and include units that Action inc is proposing, some units that are more rural with no neighbors, increased group home beds, and tiny homes near healthcare clinics/police facilities. This is my opinion. Due to limited resources, usually, only one of these options is formally implemented in a community, if anything does receive funding.

There are landlords sympathetic to the needs of some of our hardest to house, I’ve fantasized that these landlords would be approached for funding new supportive housing units. I would be interested in investing if there was intensive and sustainable case management to protect the property asset and assure tenants better success. I would not be interested in housing the most dangerous on my own in my privately owned assets.

The constant relationship issues and destruction just drag the building down if no intensive case management is available. The experience is demoralizing for the community both housed and un-housed, landlords, and healthcare and housing workers.

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