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Orange County nonprofit hopes new program can encourage landlords to house homeless

Orange County nonprofit hopes new program can encourage landlords to house homeless
Homeless people were evicted earlier this year from their homes at a tent city in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Since then, Orange County has wrestled with how to house them and other homeless in the county. A new Landlord Incentive Program may help. (Photo by Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

With homelessness on the rise in Orange County, a local nonprofit is hoping a new program will incentivize landlords to rent to the destitute.

The Orange County United Way’s Landlord Incentive Program will remove financial barriers that may discourage landlords from renting to homeless people.

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The nonprofit recently received $250,000 from the county following approval from the Board of Supervisors for a pilot program that will test the feasibility of the effort. The nonprofit has raised about $600,000.

The funds can be used for expenses related to leasing, holding fees, application expense reimbursement, damage claims assistance and security deposits, among others.

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Susan Parks, chief executive officer of Orange County United Way, said the pilot program is underway and will likely wrap up in February.

The program is new for Orange County but is common around the country.

Housing authorities in the city of Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego have similar programs, said Orange County spokeswoman Molly Nichelson.

“This has worked very well in other markets,” Parks said.

Parks said they’re hoping to place 40 people in homes during the pilot program. Those being placed have vouchers from the Orange County Housing Authority.

Nichelson said about 100 people who have yet to be placed into housing have vouchers from the housing authority.

Schroeder Management Co., a Newport Beach-based property management firm, is donating apartment units for the pilot program. The organization operates 55 apartment communities throughout Orange County.

Ernie Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the company, said they are hoping to house 10 people for the program. The organization is currently in the process of placing six individuals.

Schroeder, a member of OC United Way’s leadership council, said his company has worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for many years by housing homeless individuals.

“The residents through HUD have been fantastic,” Schroeder said. “We have had very little problems with them.”

The Landlord Incentive Program is part of Orange County United Way’s United to End Homelessness campaign.

The effort, which began in late February, seeks to raise awareness about homelessness in the county. It’s primary goal is to get sufficient permanent supportive housing for the homeless.

A 2017 UC Irvine study commissioned by the nonprofit concluded that the county would save $42 million per year if housing were provided to the chronically homeless.

“I always approach this from the head and the heart,” Parks said. “Doing the right thing would also save us money as a community.”

A state bill passed in late August calls for the creation of an Orange County Housing Finance Trust to finance 2,700 homes for homeless people. The Orange County United Way backs that decision, but that lofty goal may take some time to come to fruition.

In the meantime, Parks is hoping they’ll be able to attract enough landlords to the program to make an impact once the pilot concludes.

“The pilot will show us how it all works and hopefully we will be able to bring in more landlords early next year,” she said.

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