On December 4, 2019, The Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership (HPPP) launched a new initiative known as RentReady. This initiative came out of discussions of the HPPP sub-committee Poverty Taskforce, led by Mark Kordus of the City of Stevens Point. RentReady is a “hands-up” program, rather than a “hand-out” program. Referrals to the program may be made by community or faith-based organizations, and local programs such as JusticeWorks or the Portage County Drug Court.
The RentReady program is the first of its kind and was created from scratch with help from a variety of community partners. RentReady provides a mechanism for homeless persons who have checkered pasts, which effectively keep them out of housing, to overcome those hurdles and allow them an avenue to get back into the rental market. Participants are provided training, resource, and specific actionable items to be certified through the program.
The initial intake and training sessions were through the Salvation Army Hope Center, with small class sizes of up to 8 students, and 2 counselors. Participants need to complete a personalized homework assignment which becomes their renter portfolio provided to prospective landlords. Upon successful completion of the class and the portfolio, individuals are RentReady certified and are then eligible to participate in a rent default guarantee program for one year. Successful participants are provided a list of participating landlords and a post-placement counselor.
A critical and unique component of this program is participation from local landlords in offering rental housing. Travis Haines, Central Wisconsin Apartment Owners Association (CWAA), provided significant input to the overall process from a local landlord perspective. “We are excited to be a part of this program, and as local business owners, we were able to walk the line between helping those most in need of housing, while managing our risk at the same time. I believe we have met that balance for everyone involved.” he said.
The second critical component is post-placement assistance offered through local community- and faith-based groups such as Beloved Community Church. BobbieJoy Amann, local missions team lead, had this to say about the program: “We are excited to be a RentReady sponsor helping get folks into housing who might otherwise be left out because of credit concerns or other blemishes in their past. A Key element of the program is companioning with graduates of the program to help them stay on track with support and positive encouragement. It’s an innovative program that hits all the rights notes”. Education and post-placement mentoring have been an important element of success in several trial housing placements over the past several months.
The goal for the RentReady Program is to graduate and place 16 – 24 persons and/or families who are homeless or borderline homeless within Portage County into housing during calendar year 2020. Classes will be scheduled every other month, depending on need. We are currently soliciting funds and sponsorships for the rent guarantee risk pool from local community organizations, faith-based organizations, individuals, and businesses. Donations for RentReady may be made payable to Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership and sent to: HPPP, PO Box 570, Stevens Point WI 54481-0570. Please note RentReady in the memo line. You may also donate to RentReady through the donate button on this website.
Additional information about RentReady may be obtained from Mark Kordus, City of Stevens Point, 715 346 1554; or firstname.lastname@example.org.