Posts Tagged ‘roommate’

Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce for NPR.
Eric Perkins (right)
says lived on the beach, then a shelter and then in a hotel during the pandemic before moving into the Norfolk apartment,” NPR reports.”The median local rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,000. Perkins’ rent is $600.

This is a story about an approach to housing that hasn’t always worked in the past but, when carefully managed, really can move people out of homelessness and into eventual independence. It’s called the roommate.

Jennifer Ludden has a report at National Public Radio (NPR).

“Even after three years of homelessness, Eric Perkins did not want to move into an apartment with another person who had been unhoused.

” ‘I was real skeptical because of the things I was seeing inside the shelter,’ he says. ‘A lot of drug use, lot of alcohol abuse, PTSD, there was a lot of veterans there. …

“But the arrangement suggested by a local housing provider has turned out better than he expected. On a recent afternoon, Perkins gave a tour of the two-story house where he has lived for more than two years. It’s divided into two apartments, and he shares the one on the first floor. The place came furnished, including with some homey knickknacks. Perkins has his own bedroom but shares a bathroom.

” ‘It’s small, but it’s enough for us,’ he says.

“Farther down the hall is what sold him on the place — a roomy kitchen with a window onto the small yard. ‘I like to cook,’ he says. ‘This is where I want to be.’

“Before he moved in, Perkins had lived on the beach in Virginia Beach, then a shelter and — during the pandemic — a hotel. He ended up without housing after a heart attack in 2017 and double-bypass surgery with no health insurance. He also has chronic lung disease that limits his ability to work. Perkins’ monthly disability payment is just under $800. The median local rent for a one-bedroom apartment is more than $1,000.

“After seeing the apartment and meeting the roommate he’d be paired with, Perkins decided to try it out. His rent is $600, and he gets a lot of help from housing aid. He says his roommate was also a good match with his personality, neat and quiet.

” ‘We got to know each other, we respected each other’s space, we shared everything,’ he says. ‘It was really nice.’

“That roommate ended up reuniting with his family and moved out, and in April 2021, Leon Corprew moved in. Corprew is 59 and Perkins is 56. They say they get along well, though they mostly keep to themselves and give each other space. Perkins used to cook for both of them, but Corprew makes his own meals now because, he says with a laugh, ‘I eat a lot!’

“Getting homeless people into their own apartment, without roommates, is considered the ‘gold standard’ for achieving independence, says Ann Oliva, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. But record high rents and a historic housing shortage are making it all but impossible in many places in the U.S. …

“Rents in many places around the country have gone up by double digits in the past couple of years, and in June, the median listed rent for an available apartment rose above $2,000 a month for the first time. Federal benefits like Supplemental Security Income — or disability — have been unable to keep up. …

“Oliva says she’s seeing more interest in offering roommate arrangements to homeless people out of necessity. When vacancy rates are as low as 1% or 2%, she says expanding the search to two- or three-bedroom apartments can make it easier to find a place.

“It may also lead to housing in nicer neighborhoods, says Todd Walker, executive director of the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center in Virginia Beach, which found the shared apartment for Eric Perkins.

“Walker started trying out this kind of shared housing eight years ago when one of his volunteers offered to rent out a four-bedroom family home. And he says he quickly learned some of the pitfalls.

” ‘We had clients that weren’t paying [rent], other clients giving that client their money to pay for the utility and it wasn’t getting paid,’ he says. ‘It was a catastrophe.’

“The first major lesson Walker learned was to have a separate lease for each roommate. That way, if one person is a problem they can be moved — or evicted — without everyone else being kicked out. Also, he says it’s important to keep utilities in the landlord’s name and include that cost in the rent.

“Another rule that Walker considers nonnegotiable: No doubling up in bedrooms, and there must be locks on the bedroom doors so that each renter is guaranteed a safe space. …

“The whole idea can also be a tough sell to landlords, who might worry about property damage. Walker talks it up to mom-and-pop landlords at every chance and offers incentives like a bonus or double deposit. He says these arrangements often let him house people who would otherwise be denied a lease, because of lack of income, a criminal record or past eviction. …

“Landlord Sophia Sills-Tailor owns the house where Perkins and Corprew live. When she heard about Walker’s program five years ago, she was desperate to rent out a couple of places. She’d been using Craigslist but found those tenants ‘fly-by-night.’ Working with a nonprofit seemed more stable, even if its clients were homeless.

” ‘When they come in, they don’t just say, “OK, here is the person, goodbye,” ‘ she says. They help them set up the household, donating things like blankets, pots and pans. ‘”‘And then they’re coming to see them.’ “

More at NPR, here. No firewall.

I love that when Perkins says the shared apartment is small, he adds that it’s “enough for us.” The roommates are not friends, but they are still an “us.”

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