Monday, October 18, 2010

Clients Coming in with One Goal: To Move

Last year we had a string of participants come in for intakes whose main request was to move out of their current housing. We've had this happen again this past month. Two most frequent reasons for wanting to move: 1) They're on a fixed income and they're looking for a more affordable apartment (in some instances these clients pay more than 50% of their income towards rent) or 2) because they have ongoing issues with their current apartment like pests or other maintenance issues that are not getting fixed.

My department doesn't have an incentive to keep clients in their housing per se. We don't operate the buildings or pay clients' rent. If clients are dealing with maintenance related issues we first offer to advocate on the clients' behalf. If clients are intent on moving out we'll discuss this further and try and look at options. However, we're able to foresee a few serious challenges many participants face in trying to move.

A straight forward one is related to getting the coveted subsidized housing opportunity (rent is 30% of one's income) -- process is typically long, years long. Not impossible in this city, but it takes time and/or luck so this'll usually be a long term plan. It'll likely involve standing in multiple long lines to sign up to be included on waiting lists for subsidized units (on the occasion these waiting lists open up). If you're a senior you do have it a bit easier since you're able to pursue senior subsidized housing options.  

Apart from the happy waiting game for subsidized housing, some clients face challenges in finding market rent apartments because they have poor credit or because rent is just as high in another apartment (but the other apartment is nicer). They also need to come up with first month's rent and security deposit which is challenging for a person with a fixed income. Depending on the reason they want to move (or more realistically: the reason they need to move, aka emergency situation) they may be eligible for funds from us or another agency.

It is interesting when we, supportive housing department staff, find ourselves working with a good number of residents specifically on moving out (as our goal is homelessness prevention) but I certainly appreciate wanting to have more money left over after you pay your rent and/or that your apartment and building is well maintained and problems are addressed in a timely manner.

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