Author Vera Beech is the Executive Director of Community Rebuilders. Founded in 1993, the non-profit agency, is dedicated to ending homelessness and creating safe, affordable housing opportunities in Kent County, Michigan.
No Vacancies: A 4 Part Series from Executive Director: Vera Beech
Many times I have heard providers of homeless services talk about the reported 1-3% vacancy rates of apartments in our community. A 2015 Zillow article entitled, Vacancy: No Room to Rent (3/11/15), reported Grand Rapids, MI, had the nation’s lowest vacancy rate in 2015, coming in at 1.6%.
I also frequently hear about the barriers consumers have in securing housing: criminal history, evictions, no income, bad credit or — what many providers call the “impossible person to house” — a criminal sexual conduct charge. It doesn’t surprise me when consumer’s haven’t secured the housing they need.
At Community Rebuilders we have a belief:
Housing is a basic human right and we can help anyone get housed if they desire housing and agree to the full rights and obligations of tenancy.
And we live this belief. In 2015 we housed 1,892 people using the private rental market. Of the adults served:
• 32% had a diagnosed disability
• 15% were domestic violence survivors
• 29% were Veterans
• 95% exited to a permanent housing destination
It is clear to us that people who are experiencing homelessness and have “barriers” such as past evictions, no income and low credit aren’t so different from the average renter.
Housing is an equalizer. It’s a stepping stone that builds hope and inspires the people we serve to achieve their goals. Just as we ourselves search for housing when we move — to be closer to work, family or school — so do our currently homeless consumers. Sometimes they turn down units that don’t meet their needs. And that’s just fine with us. Like all of us, our consumers stay longer in a place they like, want and choose!
We rely on three keys to secure housing for people who don’t meet standard rental criteria.