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Beyond the Key to the Front Door Helping People with Complex Needs Succeed as Tenants. Brigitte Witkowski, Executive Director Presented to Professional Development Conference: “Supportive Housing for Persons with Complex Needs” St. John’s, Newfoundland Tuesday, May 27, 2008. What Tenants Do.

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Beyond the Key to the Front Door Helping People with Complex Needs Succeed as Tenants

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Beyond the key to the front door helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants l.jpg

Beyond the Key to the Front DoorHelping People with Complex Needs Succeed as Tenants

Brigitte Witkowski, Executive Director

Presented toProfessional Development Conference:

“Supportive Housing for Persons with Complex Needs”

St. John’s, Newfoundland

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


What tenants do l.jpg

What Tenants Do

  • Pay rent on time

  • Keep the unit clean

  • Report maintenance or repair problems

  • Repair or pay for damage they cause -

    • In the unit or common area

    • By accident or on purpose

    • By the tenant or anyone they let into the building

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Chronically Homeless People Bring Extraordinary Complexity

Sexual Orientation …

Ethnicity …

Gender …

The interplay of challenges, internalized stigma, experiences of discrimination, affects the new tenant’s ability and confidence to succeed as a tenant.

© 2008


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Tenants can lose their housing if:

they or anyone the tenant brings into the building

  • interferes with other tenants’ quiet enjoyment;

  • harasses the landlord;

  • impairs the safety of another person;

  • violates local health, safety or occupancy by-laws.

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Tenants can also lose their housing if they:

  • commit an illegal act or trade (tenant or occupant or anyone let on premises);

  • produce or traffic an illegal drug;

  • misrepresent their income (in RGI housing);

  • are away for more than 120 days (in some RGI housing).

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“Life on the street is very fast and very addictive. Changing the pace when I had my own place was really hard.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“The guy next door was harassing me. He was totally out of control. I had to get out of there.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“A friend gave me ten bucks if he could move in. Next thing I knew he was dealing from my room. I couldn’t get rid of him, so they got rid of me.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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People who have been homeless a long time need to assume a new identity as “householders.”

They need to recover from homelessness.

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Recovering from homelessness means:

  • Coping with challenges

  • Learning new skills

  • Assuming a new role – the role of the tenant.

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Our reasons for hope

If they receive the supports they need:

  • In the U.S. – success rates of 80%+

  • In Canadian supportive housing – 90%+ success rate

  • 85% of “Streets to Home” residents – most homeless more than 5 years – kept their homes for 18+ months

  • U.K. systematic literature review: support, timing, amount, length - heightened likelihood of successful tenancy

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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The Keys to Success

  • Choice -- not placement

  • Orientation at move-in

  • Visits in the tenant’s home

  • A system for paying rent

  • Good communication between the landlord, tenant and agency

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Choice -- not placement

. . . Because our idea of a good place may be quite different from someone else’s

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Orientation at Move-In

. . . Because you can’t assume everyone knows:

  • Where to send the rent

  • How to work the stove

  • How to use the garbage chute

  • What cleaning products will damage surfaces

  • When an electrical outlet is overloaded

  • How to use a toilet plunger

  • When (and whom) to call for a repair.

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Visits in the tenant’s home

. . . Because the problems that can threaten a tenancy often evolve over several weeks

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“My case worker comes once a week. He helps a lot. I didn’t pay rent for two months, but he helped me make a deal with the landlord to pay the arrears.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“I had talked to my client many times on the phone, and she seemed fine. But when I went to her home I discovered all the furniture gone. She said, ‘I wanted it to be a beach.’ If I hadn’t visited, I would have missed this sign that she was becoming ill again.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“At first, I didn’t know what to do with an apartment, or with my money. I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t care. I was hallucinating through dehydration. I was hospitalized. But the worker helped. They made things work. That’s what saved my housing.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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“No-one is going to phone me up and say, `Hey, I’m a failure.’ My visits make it easier for a client to say there’s a problem.”

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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A system for paying rent

. . . Because it’s one less worry

. . . Because most of us use pre-authorized system for our mortgage and rent payments

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Good communication

. . . Between the landlord and tenant

. . . Between the landlord and your agency

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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The costs of a failed tenancy

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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If it doesn’t work

  • Tenants lose their homes, health, social relationships -- everything!

  • Landlords lose an average $2,500 per eviction -- and say “Never again”!

  • Social Housing, Supportive Housing and Private Landlords are frustrated

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


The keys to success25 l.jpg

The Keys to Success

  • Choice -- not placement

  • Orientation at move-in

  • Visits in the tenant’s home

  • A system for paying rent

  • Good communication between the landlord, tenant and agency

Helping people with complex needs succeed as tenants


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Research Publications List

  • Models of Supportive Housing; Council to Homeless Persons; Parity Vol.21 Issue 2; March 2008 www.chp.org.au/parity/ or [email protected]

  • Low Intensity Support Services: a systematic literature review; Joseph Rowntree Foundation; June 2000.

  • Housing First, Consumer Choice, and Harm Reduction for Homeless Individuals with a Dual Diagnosis; Sam Tsemberis, Leyla Gulcur and Maria Nakae; American Journal of Public Health; April 2004, Vol 94, No 4.

  • Housing and Community Integration Issues for People with Psychiatric Disabilities; UPenn Collaborative on Community Integration; website: http://www.upennrrtc.org/issues.

  • Community Integration of Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities in Supportive Independent Housing: A Conceptual Model and Methodological Considerations; Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Phyllis L. Solomon; Mental Health Services Research; Publisher: Springer Netherlands; Volume 4, Number 1; March 2002.

  • Predicting Staying in or Leaving Permanent Supportive Housing That Services Homeless People with Serious Mental Illness; Prepared for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research; Yin-Lin Irene Wong, Trevor Hadley, Dennis Culhane, Steve Poulin, Morris Davis, Brian Cirksey, James Brown; University of Pennsylvania, Centre for Mental Health Policy and Services Research; March, 2006.

  • Housing is Health Care; John Lozier; Homeless in Europe; Winter 2006.


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