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Beyond These Walls
5th Jun

2020

Evansville highway sign

Beyond These Walls

We’re more than the 35 apartments at Coburn Place.

Survivors of interpersonal abuse receive housing support outside the walls of our building on 38th Street in Indianapolis. We also place survivors in housing in the greater Indianapolis community. And now we’re taking our experience on the road. First stop: Southern Indiana.

Coburn Place housing advocates Rhonda Albert and Amanda Acevedo are on the front line for implementing Rapid Rehousing in the Balance of State – which is everywhere outside Marion County.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority received funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement the program. IHCDA granted funds to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence earmarked for survivors. ICADV asked Coburn Place to lead a pilot program because of our expertise in Rapid Rehousing. We accepted the challenge and started in Southern Indiana, where we have connections in place. (Read more about the program here in an interview with ICADV Executive Director Laura Berry.)

Rapid Rehousing is short-term rental and utility assistance to help people experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness who want permanent housing in their communities and need support services. Many survivors fleeing domestic violence qualify for the program.

“The idea is to get them from homelessness to housing in a short time, whether they’re in a shelter, a temporary living situation or on the streets,” says Rhonda. Support services – like help with unemployment, continuing education, or drug and alcohol addiction – come after housing. “We start with well-being and housing and then work on the other needs,” she says. “When you’re in a crisis state, it’s hard to work on barriers. You need a foundation.”

The survivors in this program may be experiencing homelessness for the first time or have never had a lease in their name and need to establish a solid rental history. They are generally working or easily employable and can afford rent.

Fueled by snacks and country music on the radio – and protected by face masks and hand sanitizer – Rhonda and Amanda made their first road trip to Evansville last week to meet with partner program colleagues and survivors. (Note from Rhonda: “Amanda is not a good ride DJ, but she can sing!”)

Referrals are coming in from Aurora Inc, the YWCA of Evansville, Albion Fellows Bacon Center, Crisis Connection and Hope’s Voice in Southern Indiana. So far, the partnership has arranged to place two survivors in stable housing, with three more placements in the works.

“This program was perfect for one of my clients,” says Amanda. “She had an electric bill in collections and couldn’t afford a security deposit and first month’s rent. Those are barriers, but they’re easy for us to eliminate with her.”

Video calls, conference calls and email have bridged the distance and made it easier to build rapport with survivors. Our advocates are armed with phones, document scanning capabilities and tablets. But getting to know the community means being there – driving around to see where the safe places are and connecting with landlords. “Landlord engagement is the biggest part of what we do,” says Rhonda. “And we want to understand what the local community is about.”

Landlords have been receptive to the program. “We’re backing these clients, but we’re not a co-signer,” says Rhonda. “Everything is in the survivor’s name.” Amanda adds, “When we help someone get into an apartment who doesn’t have a rental history or has previous evictions, it not only gets them a place to live, but it creates a positive leasing record and gives them a landlord reference if they want to move somewhere else in the future.”

Rhonda and Amanda are assigned to this project for two years. The plan is to get Southern Indiana ready to go and move on to other parts of the state – getting other providers involved along the way, training them and giving them another way to help survivors. Right now, the Coburn Place team is handling the housing and partner programs are taking care of the support services, but the goal is for local providers to have the ability to implement Rapid Rehousing in their toolkits.

“Once you sign up to work for survivors this is what you do,” says Rhonda. “I believe in the mission: Everyone deserves a safe home. It goes above the challenge of travel and not knowing the areas. We know the survivors are at point A and we want to get them to point B – housing stability. It might be overwhelming between A and B, but it drives me.”

“We have an excellent team,” says Amanda. “The clients are awesome people who just need a little help. It’s been a great experience so far, even though there’s a learning curve because we’re creating something new. So many people are coming together to make this program successful.”

“It’s been a great challenge working outside Indianapolis,” says Rhonda. “We’re coming along. We’re breaking down some barriers.”

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