City revamps homeless to housing program

File Photo - Rescue Mission.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The city of Fort Wayne is reshaping efforts to get families out of shelters and into apartments.  “Ready to Rent” takes 30 homeless families, puts them each in rented housing, and pays for the rent they can’t afford.  It just started in 2013 but after some issues, the city will now be stricter on who gets in the program while boosting their support system.

Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) previously ran “Ready to Rent” in 2013.  The year-long program’s end goal is for clients to become independent of assistance.

But city and shelter leaders say some clients began missing payments and it was tough to keep track of them.  So the city will be taking control.

Clients will now need to hold a job for three consecutive months before becoming eligible for “Ready to Rent.”

“The idea is we’re taking the most ready clients and moving them on to permanent supportive housing,” said Heather Presley-Cowen, deputy director of community development for the city.  “Getting them out of the shelters opens up spaces in those shelters for others to come in.”

Clients will continue to work with the same case manager they previously did at the shelter.  The city will also be hiring an employment specialist and a case manager specifically for the new clients as part of the revamp.

“This has to be someone who’s ready to be independent, ready to grow in their careers and employment possibilities and really stick with it so that the end of that program they can pay that $500 a month on their own,” said Presley-Cowen.

Sharon Gerig is the Lifehouse Coordinator for the Rescue Mission.  She hopes the revamped program will free up space for the higher-risk homeless.

“We’re pretty much full right now,” said Gerig.  “We’re still seeing on average half of the men coming in every month are new that we’ve never seen before.  So there’s still a huge need out there.”

Only people referred by shelters will be eligible for the new “Ready to Rent” strategy.  The city hopes to begin going through referrals by May.

The city will have $160,000 in federal funding for the program.  It’s a small part in a major government initiative to graduate homeless from shelters into housing.

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