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Program helps house people with criminal history

Added on Wednesday, June 27, 2018

People who have a criminal charge in their past often find that securing permanent housing is next to impossible. In order to survive, they sometimes revert to the same criminal behavior that got them locked up in the first place. Eventually they are incarcerated again, and the cycle repeats. 

The Salvation Army in Duluth, Minn. is helping to solve this problem through a new program that gives incentives to landlords for renting to tenants with criminal backgrounds. 

There are two main incentives:

  1. Each landlord can receive up to $2,000 worth of reimbursements to cover the cost of lost rent, damages to their property, or other expenses.
  2. Supportive services are offered for both tenant and landlord. 

“The program acts as an insurance policy for landlords,” said Duluth Salvation Army caseworker Kim Holak. “The hope is that each landlord won’t ever need to file for any reimbursements. But the money is there if the tenant does not follow through with the terms of the lease.”

Portrait of JosephThe program has worked for a young man named Joseph (pictured) who was released from prison earlier this year. Despite having a good-paying job, he couldn’t find a place to live.   

“I looked at 50 places and they all turned me down,” the 27-year-old said.

Joseph’s luck changed when he found out about the program. He told a prospective landlord about it, and the landlord was all ears. 

“He was about to turn me down, but then he said, ‘OK, I’m going to work with you,’” said Joseph, who hails from Tennessee and does not have family in Minnesota.

Joseph moved into his new apartment May 1. He is grateful to have been given a second chance.     

“If not for this program, I’d still be homeless,” Joseph said. “The Salvation Army has been so awesome. They are pretty much my surrogate family.”

In addition to financial security, the program provides landlords with the added assurance that their tenant will receive guidance from and be held accountable by Holak and The Salvation Army. Holak advocates for Joseph and every other tenant in the program, visiting with them at least once a month to help them set and achieve goals. 

Portrait of Kim“The goals can be for education, employment, or life goals – they’re different for everyone,” said Holak (pictured).

In addition, Holak maintains consistent communication with each landlord to ensure that their expectations are being met. 

Holak aims to house 15 tenants per year through 2020. In order to accomplish that feat, she continues to connect with tenants, the community, and more landlords. So far, her efforts to raise awareness have been working. 

“The last tenant I housed was able to get into an apartment because the landlord had already heard about this program,” Holak said.

The program is part of a three-year grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The Duluth Salvation Army is one of three nonprofits to receive funding from the MHFA for programs that support landlord risk mitigation.

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