Landlords get incentives to sign on with At Home


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If you were a landlord, would you rent a suite to a homeless person?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/09/2010 (4559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you were a landlord, would you rent a suite to a homeless person?

What if your buildings were generally full, and the city vacancy rate was just over one per cent?

That’s the challenge the folks running the At Home/Chez Nous program faced in Winnipeg as they approached apartment building owners to help them in their initiative to get homeless people off the street.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, one of several partners in the initiative, has taken on the task of locating the suites and smoothing things over with landlords when problems arise.

So far, it has managed to line up 125 suites from 20 different landlords. The majority of the buildings are privately owned, said Ben Fry, housing service manager for the WRHA, although some suites have been found in public housing buildings.

“Some (landlords) have given us a few units and others have given us many units,” Fry said, adding that he’s pleased with the response so far. The program needs 300 units by 2013 to fulfil its mandate in Winnipeg.

Landlords are given a number of incentives to sign on with the program. Rent is paid to them directly instead of by individual participants. Landlords also receive a holding fee as soon as a unit becomes vacant, so they’re paid while an apartment is vacant because of repairs and improvements or while social agencies are lining up a client to live in the suite. As well, the program has set up a 24-hour line for caretakers and landlords to call if a tenant is causing problems, and it has taken responsibility for fixing any damage to a unit.

Wally Ruban, operations manager for B & M Land Co., has rented suites to 10 program participants in four buildings. “We’ve had mixed results,” he said recently.

“Some tenants have been in from Day 1 and been excellent.” Others, because they have mental disabilities, may abandon a suite and come back four or five days later, he said. In one case, a tenant left the windows of his suite open in the middle of winter, causing considerable damage.

He said his biggest concern is that some of the former street people need “more supervision” from caseworkers. Program officials say each participant is visited at least once a week.

“You just can’t take someone from underneath a bridge, put them into a suite, say ‘Here’s new furnishings. Here’s a monthly food allowance. Live.’ For some individuals, it just can’t happen,” Ruban said.

Yet he said he is not sorry his company is participating in the program.

Fry said in addition to having a safety net protecting them from out-of-pocket costs, participating landlords seem genuinely interested “in trying to make a difference” in an important social issue.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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