For those who participate in our Connect Ministry at Portland Rescue Mission, one of the main reasons they enter the program is to gain stabilization as they transition to permanent housing and/or a job. Connect is a key component of our Pathway Ministries. Our goal in helping men and women find housing inspired staff at the Burnside Shelter to start teaching Rent Well – a program started in Multnomah County by Home Forward.
“Some people really, really need to do the Rent Well program to even get housing,” said Andrew Hall, Guest Care Specialist at the Burnside Shelter. “So we really wanted to help meet that need and offer it free, along with some food and a free screening, to help make it easy and convenient.
“We want people to have the opportunity to learn what it means to be a good renter, and help them find solutions that will help them overcome previous screening barriers.”
For many renters, those barriers include everything from bad credit (or no credit), to a criminal history, past eviction notices or even unpaid bills.
“The Portland rental market is totally saturated,” said Dominic Abaria, Burnside Community Chaplain and Men’s Connect Advocate. “On its best day, there is maybe a two percent opening in the rental market, and as such, it’s really competitive.
“Rent Well was put together for the folks that have trouble renting in this environment, and it is geared toward helping them understand what it means to be a good tenant.”
During the 12-week course (or six really long classes), the majority of the curriculum is spent on the landlord/tenant relationship. The main aspect of this relationship, of course, includes what sort of laws and rights exist for both the landlord and the tenant as well as an “Action Plan” designed to help counter barriers to renting.
“The point of this class is to go through these barriers, and start to see what a landlord will see when they screen them,” said Malia Pearson, a Connect Support Associate. “Once they complete this program, they qualify for the Landlord Guarantee Fund, and it makes that person less of a risk to the landlord.”
Ultimately, though, as is the case with anything Portland Rescue Mission does, Rent Well is geared toward our fundamental purpose of giving hope, and restoring life. Whether at the Guest Care Center in the Burnside Shelter, or through our New Life Ministries at both Shepherd’s Door (for women and children) and The Harbor (for men), our goal is helping those suffering from homelessness and addiction.
“We try to coach our Rent Well participants to understand that, despite their past, it’s not the end of the road for them,” Andrew explained. “The need is clear…and we want them to know that even though they might feel like they are never going to be able to have a fresh start again … there really are options out there for them.”
“I had one guy who did the program, addressed his issues with bankruptcy along with his issues with evictions and unpaid bills, and got housing within a month of passing the Rent Well program,” Dominic described. “I’ve seen Rent Well work dozens of times. It gives you the right equipment, but you have to use it.”
If you are looking for more information about Rent Well at our Burnside Shelter, please contact Andrew at [email protected] . You can also leave him a message by phone at 503-906-7690.