Bad Credit, Past Evictions and Criminal Records: The Housing Difficulties Survivors May Face
As they begin to transition back into society, one of the largest hurdles our graduates face is finding safe and stable housing. Outside of moving in with a relative or friend, they have two options for off campus housing – renting an apartment or renting a home. This step is made difficult by bad credit, an eviction on their record, or a criminal background.
“Most of the residents at Hope Center Indy have at least one to overcome, and a sobering reality is that some of these were a direct result of exploitation,” says Sara Feasel, Director of Hope Community. “These can make finding safe and stable housing very difficult for our graduates.”
Hope Center Indy’s Hope Community program is meant to give at-risk adult women a safe platform to begin to live their lives the way they’re going to live beyond the center. These women are often graduates of Take Heart Residential or Grace House at Hope Center Indy, though Hope Community is open to graduates from other programs in the community as well.
While in Hope Community, residents are employed on or off campus, taking classes, and working hard preparing for their future. They have a studio apartment of their own on campus at Hope Center Indy and the monthly rent they pay not only goes back into the program but enables them to create rental history and get used to paying monthly bills.
“If the resident doesn’t have stable credit, the next thing a property manager or landlord could look for is, do they have at least two years of rental history?” says Sara. “With Hope Community being about two years long, this gives them that positive rental history to show they can consistently pay rent.”
Sara, who worked in multifamily military housing for seven years before coming to work at Hope Center Indy notes that many rental properties are managed by companies that must follow fair housing rules, meaning they would have to turn down the ladies in Hope Community based on their past history.
“Evictions can stay on your credit for up to seven years,” says Sara. “Consider a resident who spends two years in Take Heart Residential, followed by an additional two years in Hope Community — that provides them a window of four years to work toward credit repair. While this is a long time, the process of rebuilding credit can be intricate and time-consuming. Even if a survivor has managed to get everything else in their life back on track, including income stabilization, remnants of past hardships, like an eviction, could remain on their credit report. This may pose an added challenge as they start planning their departure from our program.”
Another important aspect is making sure they’re in an environment where they feel safe and not move somewhere that renders them vulnerable to trafficking or relapse. Every resident’s idea of safety and comfortability is different, and while some may choose to move back to their original communities, often, those environments are not the most conducive for them to continue their new lives. Options are important.
“Just like anyone, our residents also aspire for a place they can permanently call home. For those who have spent multiple years in residential programs, they may understandably feel as if they're always anticipating the next step or change in their living situation.”
Sara wants to encourage property management companies, real estate developers, landowners, and private landlords to consider coming alongside these brave, hard-working women and give them the opportunity to continue moving forward.
“We have a remarkable opportunity to reaffirm survivors that our support extends beyond celebrating the start of their healing journey; that we care about their well-being and future as they reestablish their lives within our communities,” Sara recalls telling one potential housing partner.
“By opening the doors of opportunity through your rental home or company, you can offer immediate and secure housing options to survivors. Choosing to see beyond previous records, partnering with Hope Center Indy to open housing programs tailored to survivors, or just using your unique position to create conversations and awareness, can dramatically help widen the circle of inclusion for individuals who are earnestly seeking and deserve to rebuild their lives. You can also consider donations of properties, homes, or land which could become the foundation for Hope Center Indy to create future permanent housing for survivors.”
If you or someone you know has a potential housing opportunity for the residents and graduates of Hope Center Indy, please email: email@example.com.