Man seeks rent assistance, finds advocate, fresh start
Written by Julie Borgen, Twin Cities Media Relations Director for The Salvation Army Northern Division
The poet Maya Angelou may have said it best: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
It’s a feeling we can all relate to. But for people who struggle to make ends meet, that sanctuary is rarely a sure thing.
“Many people are one crisis away from being homeless,” explained Matt Kirk, team lead of the social workers at the N. Lyndale Ave. Salvation Army in Minneapolis. “An unexpected car repair, or a medical bill can put them behind on the rent, and everything falls apart.”
For Max Young (pictured), a series of setbacks last year led to several months of not being able to pay the rent on his Minneapolis apartment. He explained his plight to the landlord and thought he was safe.
“Then, out of the blue, there was an eviction letter on my door,” Young said. “I was just so shaken. I couldn’t even think. I was terrified.”
After being a caretaker in his building for more than a decade, Young says he knows all too well what that notice means.
“I have seen the Sheriff pound on the door and say, you’ve got five minutes to get out,” he explained. “It’s scary.”
Young himself spent two years without a home, hopping between couches with friends and relatives – even spending some time in a shelter. He never wants to live through that again.
“The thought of going back to that, I can’t,” he said. “I was at the breaking point, even considering suicide a few months ago.”
“The goal is to catch people before they fall too far,” Kirk said.
Those who do get help must prove they are in a one-time crisis and that rent assistance will actually help solve their problem. They must demonstrate that they won’t be back the next month, needing their rent paid again.
“We only have $500 to help each client,” Kirk said, adding that his office can help only about six of the 150 people who apply for the assistance every month. “Often times we need to figure out how to help them pay the rest that they owe.”
That means walking alongside people as they search for other financial resources, connecting them with legal aid, and even calling their landlords to work out a repayment plan.
“Landlords are people, too, so if we reach out to them and open the dialogue, that can really help,” Kirk explained. “In Max’s case, the landlord really changed his attitude from when we first spoke to him – we’ve built a relationship.”
Today, Young has repaid his past-due rent and his life is stable again. He says he’s gone back to church, is looking for work and hoping to inspire others with his story.
“Now I’m free,” Young said. “It wasn’t just the financial help – I believe God prompted me to come to The Salvation Army. The people here gave me light in the darkness and I will never forget this for the rest of my life.”