Housing/transit collaboration wins national award

Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A woman receiving an award.Metro HRA has won the Resident Service Award from a leading national housing organization for an innovative collaboration with Metro Transit Police. The two departments combined their expertise to meet the difficult challenge of connecting people who are homeless with housing and support services.

The California-based organization, Nan McKay & Associates, provides professional services to the affordable housing industry, serving agencies and municipalities nationwide. The Resident Service Award recognizes housing authorities that are leaders in the affordable housing industry through community outreach and efforts that improve the future of the families.

“We’re thrilled that Metro HRA was selected as the 2020 winner,” said Jennifer Keogh, Metro HRA manager. “The collaborative work between the Metro HRA and the Metro Transit Homeless Action Team is a national example of innovation and collaboration. We’re excited to share our experiences with other communities as they look at solutions to ending homelessness.”

Moving homeless folks from trains to housing with services

The collaboration began in 2018 to meet a serious, unmet need. Transit police officers, trained as street outreach workers, started to engage with people who were using light rail trains as shelter.

Soon thereafter, Metro HRA received vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to place the people in housing with supporting services. Metro HRA staff, alongside Metro Transit police officers, worked at all hours of the night throughout the winter of 2018-19 — on trains, at shelters, and in places not suitable for human habitation.

By the fall of 2019, Metro HRA staff had located housing and arranged for services to help 94 families — 101 adults and 65 children — make the transition.

Homeless population faces multiple challenges

Difficult challenges confront people who experience homelessness. Many have chronic health conditions, including mental illness and substance abuse. They may have a history of evictions, debts to former landlords, or a criminal history. All these experiences can make it difficult or impossible for them to find the housing they need.

Approach is a ‘model of success’

Metro HRA staff were able to maneuver through the challenges and adapt established processes to support their clients. The Metro HRA team worked with clients to find the housing, helped them fill out their rental applications, counseled them before their move, and provided transportation to sign their leases.

HRA staff also recruited and negotiated with landlords, ensured payment for the application fee, and provided financial help with the required security deposit. In the process, the staff earned the trust of both the clients and the landlords.

“We’ll continue our collaborations because they worked well in meeting the individual needs of people,” said Ryane Leifheit, who coordinated Metro HRA’s efforts. “Others can see us as a model of success as we continue to support clients by providing housing opportunities.”

Metro HRA is the Metropolitan Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. We provide housing for more than 7,200 households throughout Anoka, Carver, and suburban Hennepin and Ramsey counties administering the federal Housing Choice Voucher program.

More: Council, Transit Police, partners helping families in need

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