About a year ago, Susan was sitting in her broken down trailer in the middle of the 2021 summer heat wave. “I was literally cooking in there,” she recalls. She had been living in this trailer for several years, but now that the breaker box had broken, she no longer had electricity or water hookups. Being wheelchair-bound and having no place to go, Susan felt stuck. Luckily, a friend came and rescued her and her beloved dog Chloe, and Susan was couch surfing for several months before starting to stay at the local warming shelter. Now it was the dead of winter, and Susan was spending her nights at the shelter and her days trying to keep herself and Chloe warm and her electric wheelchair charged by hanging around local parks or the McDonalds.
Susan’s main priority was to find housing, but this proved a major challenge on her limited income and with the many barriers to getting approved for a rental. Susan remembers how frustrating it was to spend $40 to $60 on an application fee only to be denied for lack of rental history or inadequate credit.
Eventually, her friend told her about Thrive and so she called our mainline and started having regular phone appointments with me. Around that same time, Susan connected with partner organizations NeighborImpact and REACH and was accepted into the Emergency Housing Voucher program in which her rent would be subsidized. Her mission now was to find housing in which she could use this voucher.
Susan and I spent many of our appointments scouring the internet for market-rate options that may work within her voucher budget. As is the case with many folks, finding housing that was affordable in this competitive market was only part of the challenge; overcoming rental barriers was a whole other matter.
Many property management companies require applicants to have 2 to 3 years of verifiable rental history. This of course makes it tough for folks who haven’t rented in the past, but it is also a major barrier for those who have paid rent to someone but were never on a formal rent agreement, rented from a family member, no longer have the contact information for their previous landlord, etc. Susan had rental history, but tracking down the two previous landlords she rented from was proving very difficult. After much digging around, we finally found a phone number for one of her previous landlords and the market-rate apartment complex we applied for was able to verify Susan’s rental history.
Additionally, Susan’s credit score was not at the number that the property management company required, and so Susan and I wrote a letter addressing this, explaining the specific steps she will be taking to remedy that credit. Both myself and a team member from REACH also wrote reference letters on Susan’s behalf to help bolster her application, Additionally, as I had been working closely with Susan for several months, I wrote a letter attesting that Chloe acts as an Emotional Support Animal for Susan. And through the help of local nonprofit Companion Animal Medical Project (CAMP), Susan was able to get Chloe spayed and vaccinated in time for the move-in. Thrive was also able to pay Susan’s application fees, which helps out tremendously as submitting a few applications can add up quickly.
After my, Susan, and various partner organizations’ combined efforts to overcome those rental barriers, Susan was finally approved for a unit and was able to move in at the end of May. And through the help of Furnish Hope, Susan was able to furnish her new apartment and start to make it feel like home. When asked how she feels in her new place, Susan says, “It still hasn’t sunken in. I am overwhelmed and grateful.” After spending so much time not wanting to get her hopes up after being denied from different properties, finally being in her own place feels surreal. “Somebody pinch me,” she laughs.
With gratitude, Susan also recalls all the people she’s met along the way, including staff members of local nonprofits and shelters and other unhoused community members who accompanied her during her journey. She has not forgotten all those out there who remain unhoused and she’s grateful for the connections she’s made.
Today, life for Susan looks like rides along the walking trails near her apartment complex and enjoying her new patio with Chloe. She sums up her experiences working with us and other community partners in one word: “Awesome.”
Thank you for sharing your story, Susan! It’s been a pleasure working alongside you.