Pilot program aims to reduce homelessness in Eau Claire

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A pilot program is trying to help people find a place to live in Eau Claire.

The City of Eau Claire teamed with local organizations to launch Eau Claire Landlord Support Program, or “Ready to Rent.” It’s a one-year pilot program designed to bring landlords together with people who have barriers to renting.

The program’s facilitator, Jenny Chaput said “high risk” tenants usually have had prior evictions, other previous renting issues or a criminal record.

Through a case worker, they’re connected with the program’s “renters class.”

“We talked with area landlords to figure out what they want to see in tenants and put together this class to teach those skills to people they who might be considered ‘high risk,’” she said.

Chaput said it’s an 8-hour course over four days teaching prospective tenants skills including budgeting for rent, dealing with bugs, how to be a good neighbor and more.

“A lot of times they just aren’t taught the skills that the majority of us have been taught and so this the opportunity to teach them these skills,” she said. “And yes, they’re basic to you and I, but the truth is that a lot of people just are not taught those skills growing up.”

After completing the course, they can go find an apartment with the backing of the program’s landlord mitigation fund.

TJ Atkins helps manage the $14,000 fund. She compared it to insurance for landlords who take on a “high risk” tenant.

“They have access to funds if there was a problem that arose from having that particular tenant, which could be anything from damages, it could be loss of rent,” she said. “It just really depends on the situation and the individual.”

Atkins said landlords could collect up to $3,000 in damages from the fund per “high risk” tenant.

Chaput said she’s worked with landlords for years trying to house risky renters outside of the program. They aren’t opposed to taking on risk but they need protection if something goes wrong.

“They all have a heart. They all want to help. Every one of them has been burnt. Yes, of course they’re running a business so they have to worry about the business end of things as well,” she said. “But, if there is something in place to help a person be successful, they want to help them.”

She said two people have completed the “renters class.” Neither have found housing through the program.

She added the next course starts Oct. 19. She hopes to continue informing more case workers and landlords about the pilot program.

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