Housing the Homeless – How to, and what not to do

You suck! You are a pig and you break things and you are a disgrace to have in my building!

or

You are a nice person and I am glad to see you in the building. I asked you to come in today because of the hole in the hallways. I saw you punch the wall and make the hole. That is not the behavior I want to see from the tenants here and now we must come up with a plan to fix the hole. I’ve written an incident report and want to review it, and an agreement that you won’t damage the building again. It says here that Rule #4 of the lease agreement is “_________blah blah, don’t damage the property, blah _____”. Do you remember that from your rental agreement? (pause) It is going to cost $50 to repair the damage and as property manager I am asking you to pay for half. You can pay $10 this month, $10 next month and $5 in the third month. Great! I am glad we had this discussion – do you have anything you want to tell me?

Effective and supportive property management takes the tenant and their history, psychological health, and feelings into account.

  1. Show the tenant respect.
  2. Create a safe place for the tenant to discuss the event.
  3. Address the event as negative and do not blame the person – just address the behavior.
  4. Help the tenant see themselves in the situation you are addressing
  5. Give accountability for repairing the situation to the tenant

Newly housed Homeless Individuals have had to learn to live in the streets and in shelters. Some, or all, of their independent domesticated living skills have been forgotten or weakened. A supportive property manager is more than a handyman and rent collector – he is a vital instructor of living skills.

  • He reminds the tenants to pay the rent on time.
  • He sets the tone for the building – friendly or hostile, warm or impersonal.
  • He is the bridge to the rest of the professional world.

Some buildings and agencies want to place a former client in this rols so the agency can show that they employ “success stories”. This is a noble but unwise plan. Low income apartment buildings serving the recently “off the street” client is still vulnerable to the street climate.

Prostitution, drugs, gangs, violence, mentally ill decomposition, tenants off their medications . . . It is unfair to ask a person who was involved in overcoming these obstacles to now live in the middle of all the action and be able to keep himself  objectively removed. The drug dealers still have influence, the loan sharks may want to play the “you used to owe me money card” on the manager. The incident rate of property managers no longer being able to maintain a sterile and safe environment because of the history of street culture is astounding. It is a corrupt system that is more invested in “promoting itself as a success” than paying a little more and and educating an outside property manager.

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