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City program's goal: From shelter to self-sufficiency

'Ready to Rent' changes approach to improve success rate

Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 8:49 am

It’s called the “Ready to Rent” program, but the goal is far more important than that.

By the end of next month, the city hopes to hire case managers that will help as many as 30 households move this year from homeless shelters, to rental housing to, self-sufficiency. The presence of case managers marks a significant change from the program’s first year, when the lack of a hands-on “team captain” for participants produced less than hoped-for results.

Funded through federal grants, the program will work with as many as eight local shelters to identify people most likely to succeed: people who have been employed at least three of the last 12 months, have an income and have earned a high school diploma or equivalent or are working towards one. “We won’t take the hard cases,” city spokeswoman Rebecca Karcher said.

Once in the program, case managers will determine participants’ potential income after 12 months, with that projection determining the rent they will be charged during that period. Program vouchers will make up the difference between participants’ income and their rent.

But Ready to Rent is much more than a short-term housing program, Karcher said. Participants will work with the WorkOne Northeast career center to improve their employment readiness and planning and will also receive help with financial literacy, credit repair and other life skills necessary. Participants must also continue to seek and hold jobs.

“We want to lay out a path to self-sufficiency,” Karcher said. “Many of them know (from their own past) what stability is. They know how to do it but need help.” After a year, participants will have hopefully stabilized their housing and reduced or even eliminated their need for government assistance.

The program has another important benefit, Karcher said.

Because many of Fort Wayne’s homeless shelters are at or near capacity, there is often no room for people in need of help. When people leave the shelters to participate in Ready to Rent, it will free up space for people who have nowhere else to go – and may benefit from next year’s Ready to Rent program.