What is Community Housing Solutions?

How can we house more people experiencing homelessness quickly and more cost-effectively?

That is what the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness (LCCEH), Lancaster City, Lancaster County, and the United Way wanted to accomplish when they decided to try having one unified housing location service for all rapid re-housing programs in Lancaster County.

Tabor applied for that grant and in the spring Tabor learned that we were awarded the contract, which lead to the creation of Community Housing Solutions (CHS) in July 2016. The goals of the new county-wide system are to get more people into permanent housing quickly, and to have fewer case managers contacting landlords and competing for open units.

Tabor employs two CHS housing location specialists, Laura Willmer and Andrea Grill, who do just housing location. Laura and Andrea contact landlords about available units and build relationships with those landlords.

When Laura or Andrea first meet with a client, they go over how to find housing and what search tools to use: newspapers, Craigslist, Trulia (a website just for rentals), “For Rent” signs, property management company websites, visit property management offices and talk to family and friends about their landlords or available apartments.

Lancaster Housing Opportunities Partnership (LHOP) hosts a housing search engine where property managers, and landlords post open units for people looking to rent. Laura and Andrea also do searches and guide clients to apartments that they find.

When the client finds an apartment, they let the housing location specialist know when it will be shown. “I try to go to most showings,” says Andrea. “Then I know what is said at the meeting. Sometimes the client doesn’t want me there, so they go on their own.” She will help the client complete the application and tells the client to follow up with the landlord in two or three days.

Once the landlord agrees to rent to the client, specialists go to the lease signing. “We can assure that all questions are answered,” Andrea explains, “that the lease is complete, accurate and lawful.” Specialists then inspect the unit to make sure it is habitable. Once the client has moved in and there are no issues with the apartment that need to be addressed, the client resumes working with the rapid re-housing case manager who referred them to CHS. The case manager provides on-going support and guidance to the household until they are stabilized in their housing.

Andrea offers, “A lot of landlords have a good experience with the programs. They want to help and they understand where the clients are coming from.”

Housing location specialists can be helpful to landlords in filling their units and saving advertising costs. Kenneth Randall, Tabor’s 2015 Landlord of the Year, says, “Working with Tabor was a great opportunity for me to grow my business and help other people.”

And landlords know they are not alone in dealing with a tenant who is receiving supportive services. Landlords can always contact the housing case manager to help resolve any problems that may arise.

Currently, CHS staff are working with the 4 rapid rehousing programs: Tabor’s STIL program, the YWCA, DVS (Domestic Violence Services) and ECHOS, a new organization in Elizabethtown. CHS can be contacted at (717) 358-9381 or chs@tabornet.org.

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