John Foley, Executive Director, was asked why we collect rent during this pandemic in our permanent supportive housing (PSH) program. Here is his response:
Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH) has a fundamental philosophy that all of our tenants should be treated with dignity, we uphold their rights and meet them where they are. The people that enter our PSH program are referred to us by a system that screens them for vulnerability and for the length of time they have been homeless. The PSH program is funded by federal funding through Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Grants. We house all of the people who are referred, regardless of the information that is received from the referral system as set up by HUD. PSH is a low barrier housing model (housing first) and it is our intention to continue to be a low barrier housing provider. When SSHH moves people indoors (many who have been on the street for a year or more), we recognize that they are coming to us with limited resources, and in some cases, diminished capacity. We provide our tenants a furnished home; and as tenants, they sign a lease, a lease that affords them all the rights, responsibilities, and protections of being a renter in the housing market. The amount of rent is established and monitored by HUD through regular reviews by the administrator of the HUD funding.
SSHH, working through the PSH program, is not only a care provider but is a landlord to the tenants who reside in the houses we lease. We master lease houses throughout the county for the PSH program. As tenants, our residents deserve to live in nice neighborhoods, in nice houses and have decent things. We sign leases with our participants so that when plumbing needs to be repaired, or carpets replaced they can call us and say, “we pay our rent, and we need to have these things fixed.” We want our tenants to know that not only will we address living conditions, but it is because they pay their rent that we are able to do so. Our tenants are tenants, they are no longer people who are homeless. They have homes with rental rights.
During the pandemic, we know that many people’s incomes have been affected. We have followed all of the guidelines set forth by the government in supporting people in their rent payment obligations. Just like every other tenant in California, our residents can fill out a hardship form and let us know how their income has been impacted. SSHH will consider and adjust rents according to what is allowable by HUD. If people have lost their income entirely, SSHH does not charge them rent - something that doesn’t happen in the traditional rental market. What we are asking for from our tenants is accountability. We ask for forms and income verifications as allowed by law. We never charge more than 30% of a person’s verifiable income for rent. PSH is not charity. PSH is not an emergency shelter. PSH is a housing model that helps to prevent chronic homelessness by offering affordable housing to people who would otherwise not be able to afford to be in the housing market at all.