Ms. J. may be 22 years old, but her life experiences quickly
gave her the tools necessary to survive life on the streets as a young mother
in Baltimore. When Ms. J. graduated from high school, her newborn son Luke was
there in the audience to support her. Following graduation, Ms. J. had been
kicked out of the only home she has ever known due to her mother’s struggles
Ms. J. only had one option: to move in with her boyfriend,
the father of her child. This would allow her to begin schooling and obtain her
Medical Assistance certification. Unfortunately, due to a volatile home
situation, Ms. J. had to withdraw from school and she and Luke had to flee to a
domestic violence shelter. As a single mother living on the streets with a baby
she wondered, “Why didn’t I just wait to have a child? But I didn’t.” Ms. J.
knew it was time to reach out to community resources for help.
Ms. J.’s Case Manager from Maryland Health Care Connection
referred her to St. Ambrose’s Rental Services Program and Leah Mason-Grant,
Senior Manager of Rental Services. “Leah is always so kind and helpful to Luke
and me. She treats us exactly like we are all a part of one family.”
Ms. J. was then connected with Darrell, St. Ambrose Case
Manager, whom she found to be extremely helpful on her journey. “Darrell helped
me find the job I have now. I was only babysitting when he helped me find an
on-call, floating IEP (Individualized Education Program) position in the
Baltimore city schools. This allows me to help children in the school system
that require extra assistance, guidance and are special needs.” After one year,
Ms. J. will be eligible for a full-time position at a permanent school location.
Ms. J. and Luke, almost 4 years old, now live in a St. Ambrose rental property. They have a two-bedroom townhouse to call their own and they love their new life. “The home was so big and beautiful! I never had anything like that before. It means everything to me that I have a nice home to raise my son in.”
What’s next for Ms. J.? Ms. J. would appreciate the
opportunity to go back to college. Her sister is a driving force for this
because as a Phlebotomist and Mortuary Science student, her sister has
expressed an interest in opening a family mortuary business with Ms. J., but
she has to get a degree first.
Ms. J.’s plan is to get a more permanent job, get accepted to college and start her son in school. “Thank you Darrell, Leah and St. Ambrose for everything you have done for us!”
As the U.S.’ baby boomers age, most report wanting to remain in their homes, where they can be near their community. In 2009, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of adults 65 and older living in Baltimore, found that nine out of ten respondents own their own apartment or home and the majority are very satisfied with their living arrangements.However, many Americans also have dreams of traveling to other countries, something that can be difficult when you are weighed down by a mortgage. A plane ticket to France? Not very feasible when you are stuck with a $1200 mortgage.Homesharing, the idea of renting out a room in your home to a non-related individual, allows homeowners to gain a disposable source of income while participating in a cultural exchange.Maxine Hudley, one of our HomeProviders living in the Belair-Edison neighborhood, has had a positive experience sharing her home with people from other cultures. This past year, she hosted a woman from Ethiopia who spoke little English and couldn’t afford an apartment with her job at 7-11. Over the 16 months sharing her home with Tarik, Maxine earned $6000 in rental income. Tarik, in turn, saved an estimated $11,600 on rent by living with Maxine. The following is an excerpt of an interview Emma Jornlin, a LVC working in the Homesharing program this year, conducted with Maxine.St Ambrose: Why did you decide to share your home?
Maxine: I needed the additional funds. And the great thing about me is I have a big heart.
St. Ambrose: Shared housing, the idea of sharing housing with non-family members, is very popular in other countries. For example, if you study abroad in university anywhere from Germany to Ecuador, you will be invited to stay with a host family. Why do you think it’s less popular in the U.S.?
Maxine: Well, I didn’t know about it until a few years ago. I heard about it on the radio. Then I read this article about a woman sharing her home with a gentlemen and it really impressed me.
St. Ambrose: You’ve shared your home with a number of people from other cultures. How do you communicate when you don’t speak the same language?
Maxine: She (Tarik) had someone who could interpret for her. She would call them up. Also, even though we don’t speak the same language, there’s a million other ways to work things out. Like when she wasn’t locking the door, I couldn’t make myself understood verbally, so I’d take her to the door and show her how to lock it. And she would do the same thing with me. The mattress was lumpy and she took me to the bed to show me. So I went out and bought a new mattress—for both of my Homeseekers.
St. Ambrose: Would you recommend Homesharing to others?
Maxine: Yes. 100%.
… and now for our Spanish readersEn Español:Mientras los ‘baby boomers’ de los E.E.U.U. maduran, la mayoría reportan que ellos quieren quedarse en sus casa, donde ellos puedan estar cerca de sus comunidades. En 2009, el Pew Research Center, conducto una investigación de adultos de 65 de edad viviendo en Baltimore, encontrando que nuevo de los diez respondientes tienen su propio casa o apartamento y la mayoría están muy satisfechas con sus vivencias.Pero muchos estadounidenses también tienen un sueño de viajar a otros países, algo que puede ser difícil cuando tiene una hipoteca grande. ¿Un vuelo a Francia? No es muy viable cuando Ud. tiene una hipoteca de $1200.Homesharing, el idea de rentar un cuarto en su casa a una persona quien no es familia, permite que el dueño de la casa obtener un fuente de dinero disponible mientras participando en un intercambio cultural.Maxine Hudley, uno de nuestros dueños de casa viviendo en el barrio Belair, ha tenido una buena experiencia compartiendo su casa con una persona de otra cultura. Este ano pasado, a ella alojo una mujer de Ethiopia quien no hablaba mucho inglés y no podía afordar un apartamento con su trabajo en 7-11. En los 16 meses compartiendo su casa con Tarik, Maxine ganó $6000. Tarik guardo $11,600 en renta.St. Ambrose: ¿Por qué decidió Ud. compartir su casa?
Maxine: Yo necesitaba los fondos adicionales. Y lo bueno de mi es que tengo un gran corazón.
St. Ambrose: El idea de compartir una casa con otra persona quien no es familia es muy popular en otros países. Por ejemplo, si Ud. estudia en otro país por su universidad en Alemania hasta Ecuador, le van a invitar a Ud. quedarse con una familia. ¿Por qué piensa Ud. que este concepto no es tan popular en los EEUU?
Maxine: Pues, yo no conocía el concepto antes de unos años atrás. Yo oí un advertismo en el radio. Después, leí un artículo en el periódico de una mujer compartiendo su casa con un hombre y me impresiono mucho.
St. Ambrose: Ud. Ha compartido su casa con gente de otras culturas. ¿Cómo comunica ustedes cuando no hablan el mismo idioma?
Maxine: Ella (Tarik) tenía alguien para interpretar por ella. Les llamaba por el teléfono celular. También, aun cuando nosotros no hablamos el mismo idioma, hay un millón de otras maneras comunicar. Por ejemplo, cuando ella no estaba cerrando la puerta con candado, yo no podía explicarlo verbalmente, entonces yo le llevaría a la puerta y le mostraba como hacerlo. Y a ella hizo lo mismo conmigo. El cochón estaba lleno de grumos y a ella me llevo a la cama para mostrármelo. Y por eso, yo salí a comprar un nuevo cochón—para los dos Home Seekers.
St. Ambrose: ¿Ud. recomendaría Homesharing a otra gente?
A recent proposal from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has attracted both praise and concern among affordable housing advocates. The Transforming Rental Assistance (TRA) initiative—which has yet to become a formal Congressional bill—was recently presented to the House Financial Services Committee. The proposal has three broad goals 1) to streamline and simplify HUD’s numerous rental assistance programs 2) to allow public housing agencies to access private capital by converting to new funding contracts and 3) to promote resident choice regarding their housing’s location.
In his recent testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan, stressed the importance of the TRA initiative. He noted that the public housing stock “currently has a backlog of unmet capital needs that may exceed $20 billion dollars,” and that 150,000 public housing units have been lost in the last 15 years alone “through demolition or sale.”
Among the proposal’s supporters, Will Fischer, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has called the TRA “the most important new initiative to preserve federally subsidized housing in more than a decade.” Fischer writes that the multi-year, $350 million dollar proposal “would help preserve an estimated 300,000 affordable apartments…in its first year.”
The President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), Sheila Crowley, while noting that the proposal is “not perfect,” also supports the TRA initiative. “The TRA proposal demonstrates HUD’s dedication to preserving our nation’s underfunded public housing while protecting tenant rights and establishing mechanisms to provide extremely low income people with more housing options,” Crowley said in a statement on the NLIHC website.
However, the TRA proposal has garnered opposition as well. The National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), and other housing advocates have questioned the proposal’s potential to lead to the privatization of public housing. With new funding contracts, owners would be able to take out mortgages for much needed building maintenance and repair. Some worry that in the case of a bankruptcy or foreclosure, the properties would fall into private hands, thereby diminishing the stock of affordable properties and undermining the rights that tenants enjoy with public housing.
In a joint publication with National People’s Action, Tiffany M. Gardner, Director of the Human Right to Housing Program at NESRI, has written that converting public housing to project-based section-8 units, “raises many questions and potential dangers, including public housing switching from public to private ownership and decreasing the accountability mechanisms currently available to residents. While both the public housing and project based Section 8 programs play important roles in housing our most vulnerable communities, both have a separate set of strengths and weaknesses and are not substitutes for each other.”
The issue of privatization has also been raised very prominently in a recent series of articles at the Huffington Post, involving Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, George Lakoff and HUD Secretary, Shaun Donovan. Lakoff first discussed the TRA proposal and the possibility that foreclosures would lead to privatization, here. Shortly afterwards, Secretary Donovan offered his own explanation and defense of the TRA proposal—stating explicitly that “What this bill won’t do is “privatize” public housing.” Donovan added that:
By allowing public housing properties to voluntarily tap their inherent value to meet their capital needs like owners of other affordable housing are able to do, this legislation levels the playing field – increasing the likelihood that properties will remain publicly owned and affordable to the lowest-income households.
In addition, HUD’s FAQ page on the TRA initiative specifically addresses the issue of foreclosure:
Q: Will there be protections to avoid losing units to foreclosure?
A: Yes. The rental assistance contract for converted properties would remain in place, whether or not the loan is insured by FHA. In the unlikely event that a lender forecloses on a loan, the property must remain affordable when transferred to a new public agency, not-for-profit organization or other owner.
However, questions regarding privatization remain. Following Donovan’s post, Lakoff issued another post of his own, this time drawing upon questions Donovan faced by US Representatives Barney Frank and Maxine Waters at the Financial Services Committee. While Lakoff is reassured that the bill has not yet been taken up by a Committee and “HUD’s attempt to privatize all of America’s public housing has been put on hold—for now,” he expressed concerns that linguistic finessing in the proposal allows HUD to simply define away the problem of privatization.
Damaris Reyes, representing National People’s Action—which describes itself as “a Network of community power organizations from across the country that work to advance a national economic and racial justice agenda”— has also raised questions about the TRA proposal. In addition to questioning the possibility of privatization, whether units would remain affordable over the long term, and how the proposal would affect resident rights—Reyes has also introduced broader concerns:
The need for repairs and maintenance on this scale is irrefutable, but it is worth taking a moment to reflect on why there is such a massive amount of money needed to make our public housing viable. It is because the current Administration, previous Administrations, and Congress as a whole have failed to act. … We are here today discussing this bill because this country has refused to live up to its responsibility to care for our nation’s most vulnerable, and has starved public housing of the necessary resources. So now we are looking to the private market to save our public assets.