It’s a common story across the United States: People with felonies or past evictions struggle to find places to rent.
In Dakota County, social service providers are piecing together a new solution. A housing access resource team, which will start work this fall, is spearheading the effort.
One member of the two-person team will help renters gather paperwork that landlords need. They will train people on how to interview with a landlord and be a good tenant.
That staffer will also connect people with other resources they may be eligible for, like mental health services or benefits, said Madeline Kastler, Dakota County housing manager.
The other team member will search for landlords willing to accept people with less-than-perfect backgrounds and build relationships with them. That person will also address any concerns landlords have after one of those tenants moves in.
The new team will relieve burdened case managers and open a bottleneck in the process to match people with services, Kastler said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will fund the team for one year with a $202,000 grant. The plan is for nonprofit Guild Inc. to raise funds over the next year to keep the team going in the future, Kastler said.
“We’re really seeing this as seeding to get this up and running,” she said.
The announcement of the new program was met with applause at Wednesday’s meeting of Heading Home Dakota, a group that works to end homelessness.
Many of the social service providers who attended the meeting have dealt with the consequences of the tight rental market.
Landlords are able to charge more and be choosy about whom they serve. As a result, more people with bad credit, criminal histories or just a poor interview with the property owner are left homeless.
“This has been just one big appeal to landlords. … We need your help,” Rebecca Bowers, coordinator of Heading Home Dakota, said at the meeting.
“This is a community problem that needs a community solution,” she said.