Engaging landlords to make a difference in homelessness

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Landlord Liaison Program staff thank those who make a difference with a Community Pillar Award, here being received by Shonna Randle of Rainier Rentals (holding frame). From left to right are: Tony Lewis, Landlord Liaison Program; Debra Grant, Clara Le and Terra Island, Metropolitan Development Council; Kiesha Triplett, Landlord Liaison Program; Michael Yoder, Associated Ministries; Alexis Eykel, Landlord Liaison Program; Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive; Jeff Rodgers and Anne Marie Edmunds, Pierce County Human Services.

A new partnership between Pierce County and Associated Ministries has resulted in a novel program for helping house those experiencing homelessness countywide. Called the Landlord Liaison Program (LLP), it strives to successfully house homeless individuals and families who cannot otherwise access housing due to rental barriers (such as past evictions, bad credit, or low income), with the ultimate goal to provide safe and affordable housing in every part of Pierce County.

Under the leadership of Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, last year the Pierce County Council established a county landlord mitigation fund and the county Human Services Department wrapped a new program around the administration of that fund, the Landlord Liaison Program (LLP), which works with property owners/managers and participating service agencies.The program is an incentive through which private market landlords have access to funds and tools to rent to those with less than perfect rental histories – the hope is to create a way to get landlords to be more willing than they have been in the past to rent to those that they might normally shy away from.

Associated Ministries has been awarded the contract to run the program for Pierce County. “It fits with what we do because our organization has a variety of public and private funded housing programs so this is a natural fit with our work,” said Associated Ministries Executive Director Michael Yoder. “There is only one solution to homelessness: to get someone into a permanent home, and this is a new effort to do that.”

LLP is not a brand new concept, but a newly energized effort in Pierce County to take the best practices of how similar programs have worked well in other communities and try to foster something like it in Pierce County.

“There are some outstanding examples of communities that have really embraced and advanced this idea of working directly with private market landlords to help them with incentives and mitigations so that they can more easily step into the system and do their part in the homelessness continuum,” Yoder said. “We can’t just build public housing to build out way out of our homelessness crisis. We have to have private market forces as the main solution in the short term.”

 

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

 

LLP is under the quite capable hands of program manager Alexis Eykel. Eykel brings with her more than 10 years experience developing relationships with landlords within the homeless system in King County and she is also a licensed real estate agent, so she has an inside knowledge of how landlords operate and what their concerns are.

“What you’ve got in Alexis is a very unique individual who is key to making this work,” Yoder said. “She understands the homeless system and people experiencing homelessness. And as a trained real estate agent working in that field and being a landlord herself, there probably isn’t another human in this county who is so qualified. This is what is needed – to think differently about a solution that spans two worlds and brings them together. This can happen when you have someone who understands both worlds and that’s one of the reasons why this program is making some progress now – we have innovative people that have innovative background experience.”

As Eykel stated it, LLP is there to represent the landlord so that they have somebody on their side. Eykel said that Associated Ministries is a pioneer in encouraging shelters and other housing programs to rethink their rules for housing, which often included “no felonies,” “no prior evictions,” “no drug use,” etc. “You had to be the ‘perfect’ homeless person that maybe just lost their job,” she said. “We’re allowed to be innovative here and do what needs to be done to help everyone.”

Eykel explained that program staff works directly with landlords and provide protections to them if they’re renting to tenants with high barriers and whom the landlord is willing to take a risk on. “Historically, landlords haven’t had someone to make sure that they’re heard and that their property is being taken care of. We are here to protect their assets with our risk mitigation funding. Landlords can call us 24/7 through a number that rings straight to my cellphone if they have a concern or issue with a tenant.”

“The landlords we work with, and most landlords, don’t want to evict,” said LLP property partner specialist Kiesha Triplett. “They don’t want to see people homeless. Yet landlords are human and their rental property may be their investment for retirement or something that they want to hold for their children one day, so it’s really important for them to guard that.”

LLP offers two different types of mitigation funds to help landlords, also called “property partners,” when they sign on with the program – a state fund and a county fund.  “We want to be that catch-all, so if landlords list their units through us, we can protect them with risk mitigation funds and make sure they are taken care of. That’s what we want to be seen as in the community,” Eykel said.

Triplett described LLP as “supplemental insurance,” like Aflac – extra protection that’s no cost to property partners.

“We have case managers who can come in and respond quickly to help diffuse things and help their tenants get their lives together,” she said. “Property partners give us a call with anything they need.”

The program offers much to renters as well. Case managers walk with tenants through the whole process – from the application process to the rental or lease agreement signing. In addition, Associated Ministries’ Renters Readiness program provides renters with basic tools to be good renters, helping them learn how to build healthy relationships and trust with landlords. In the event that there is a conflict to be settled, LLP steps in to mediate.

“We shine when stuff goes downhill with tenants,” Eykel explained. “With us being the middleman, people can take their frustrations out on us – clear their minds before they talk to the landlord. We diffuse situations first and then they can talk. We have the opportunity to be a sponge to soak up all the bad energy and then they can talk to each other with positive energy. It feels good, fostering those relationships.”

 

A WIN-WIN SITUATION

 

Yoder provided this scenario that encapsulates LLP benefits for all parties involved: Let’s say you own a little apartment building and you have a unit that’s open. How would you normally look for a tenant? You’d put an ad on Craigslist or something and let people apply. Then you can pay to have them screened, interview them and try to guess if they’d be a good tenant, look at their background and make a choice. If anything goes wrong – they trash the place and leave in the middle of the night – you’re on your own.

This is where LLP comes in:

By signing up with LLP, property partners make units available as one of the inventory through LLP and then the rapid re-housing agencies that are working to house homeless clients will know that they have a unit available and recommend a client to take the unit. It’s still a tenant/landlord relationship – tenants still have to apply and be approved by the property partner – but landlords agree to use LLP’s screening criteria.

By taking a client that comes through LLP, the mitigation funds and advocates come with that tenant; so your willingness to accept a person through LLP, rather than picking your own, can be a benefit to you because they come with extra protections. If that tenant isn’t the right fit, LLP will help that person move on without landlords having to go through the pain and bring in a new person – a graceful exit.

When all is said and done, it’s the right thing to do, says Yoder.

“It’s the right thing to give a second chance to somebody with an eviction, but it is inherently riskier to rent to somebody who’s had to be evicted in the past so we’re going to help you do the right thing. We have a program now to cover landlords to do the right thing and take a second look at people and let their compassion come forward toward being a solution to house those in need. There’s a new option for landlords now to be more expansive in their screening criteria and lower the barriers.”

 

COMMUNITY PILLAR AWARDS

 

Saying thank you to landlords and rental companies that have signed on with LLP is an important aspect of the program. “Landlords rarely ever get told thank you,” as Eykel stated it, so every quarter, LLP gifts a Community Pillar Award to those who have gone above and beyond to help end homelessness. Dammeier presents the awards to the recipients, as he has invested so much into making LLP a reality. To date, awards have been presented to Rental Housing Association of Washington, Rainier Rentals and Spinnaker Property Management.

To learn more about LLP, visit www.LandlordLiaisonProgram.com, call (253) 426-1518 or email info@landlordliaisonprogram.com.

 

Please note that LLP works directly with landlords and case managers of Pierce County-funded housing programs. If you are experiencing homelessness yourself and need housing please contact Coordinated Entry at (253) 682-3401. LLP does not work directly with clients or tenants in housing programs.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Personally I think it’s a bunch of malarkey! Different strokes different folks they say ?such cliche just may hold true to it’s meaning? I was made to vacateo my home after 4 1/2 years when city of Tacoma inspection Dept , inspected home for “mold” an water damage, from a “busted water tank” declared inhabitable for no running water. I was referred by THA, and City of Tacoma to contact This same org “phone number” only to lose two potential rentals that would have accepted me as a resident of their property . My hardship with meeting most criterias management companies have set compared to private landlords, reason I lived at resident so long. I knew how hard it would be to find another place to rent. Needless to say the insufficient relocating funds was not sufficient to up an move into another place at the click of the heels whether by good faith of either involved hold to their agreement of such promisary an plan . It’s not rocket science but I do know what 3x the rent is .
    After weeks leading up to months an even reaching out for even more help from local State Senators an local governmental official’s on such issue being local governmental assistance is being of “no” assistance “I am still homeless from the date of August 8 ,2018 made by the city of Tacoma Inspection Dept . I was referred to Tacoma Pro Bono , Clear ,Nothwest Justice Project to only be mis-advised by a criminal attorney who lead me wrong in recovery of deposit , insurance claim,damages an injury ,got a second opinion on after acting on such wrong advise, with-drew motion from small claims court. Now seeking Supeiror Court action for Justice with no legal help have yet to get any real leagal assistance with this case being complex. although I am standing for others who may fall in same category of my concerns, my landlord was a awesome person an I really don’t want to pursue the matter but I lost my Car, R.V. (thanks to city of Tacoma inspection Dept a week before putting me out my home)”r.i.p dog” ,an my home on something that could have been rectified.

    Icing on the cake , just got a phone call for a survey for a gift card of 50$ from same org phone number, seeking my opinion ,.I tried to give it to them on the spot but they wanted to schedule it‽¿ Makes ya think huh? I was cohers into signing a document that made me homeless by the city of Tacoma ,an THA issue same number that will help but It’s been right at a year an I’m still Homeless an you want to give me 50 bucks for my opinion , like I said a bunch of malarkey ,”my opinion”

  2. July 7 2018 my hot water tank burst flooding my unit. I resided at 5502 s Alaska Street unit b Tacoma Washington 98408
    I contacted my landlord numerous ways phone an certificated mail.
    He did not respond I contacted the city of Tacoma an they sent their inspection Dept out to inspect. August 8 2018 they deemed it unhuman to inhabit the unit due to flooding, mold an no running water.
    I contacted my insurance company Assurant renters insurance company an filed a claim ,which is America Bankers Insurance
    They sent a Intergity Adjusters for a walk through inspection.
    They reported a lost of my personal property.

    After filling a claim I was denied by my insurance company because they say after providing my landlord information they said he refuse to speak with them an that’s the reason they denied my claim
    I also filed a burgelery claim they denied as well on August 25 2018, financial lost an homeless

    Due to this situation I was made to vacate the unit and made homeless and still homeless still this day.

    I would like to mention that I was forced to sign a document that was mitagated by the city of Tacoma an my landlord for relocating funds in the amount of 2000 dollars that was insufficient to cover being relocated. I reserved my rights though I was cohers to sign inorder to get any help.this has caused stress triggers of PTSD an seeking mental health.
    My life has been alterd to being exposed to mold I now must use a inhaler as perscibe by doctor.

    I find this article to be a bunch of malarkey that is posted about how great they seem in public eye , I lost two potential homes in my relocating process with this org .I was just seeking a little help , no more no less (I lost everything Again” house,car,r.v.,#r.i.p. dog) an this time there was no Hurricane Katrina) landlord, city of Tacoma Inspection an Huma rights department.
    A week prior the city of Tacoma comes to my house at the time an take my car and r.v. out my yard.(seriously Ken ketter?)
    After being made to vacate ,(homeless) by the city of Tacoma and THA they both referred me to this org.
    From my understanding this is the only assistance available but not available. “Unless otherwise maybe different storkes for different folks¿
    Still homeless for right at a year now .
    But this same department by the city of Tacoma , let this same unit be rented the following month? “Where they do that at? I was told they boarded it up by Mr Williams the supervisor with city of Tacoma inspection ,when was this because I was made to vacate that same unit on August 8, 2018.
    The only program for the homeless basically denied me but there is a great inititive being publicated like I said my opinion ,”Marlarkey” the same as for the phone call I received from this same number ,org who offered me a 50 dollar gift card for my opinion . But could not aid me in seeking housing assistance while I am homeless Who is funding this org? I hope not my Uncle! I tried to voice it while over the phone, but such buricratic red tape they scheduled me to come in an give my opinion. Hello (I am Homeless ) I lost everything an literally called me to offer 50 bucks on a gift card . ( smh )

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