Kinew support worker focuses on eviction prevention

·3 min read

A new face at Kinew Housing is helping tenants of the non-profit housing provider stay in their homes.

Shayla Fredborg started in February as a tenant support workerwith a focus on eviction prevention—a newly created position at Kinew.

"I really enjoy working with the tenants and getting to know their stories and helping them and making sure that they have somebody in their corner and doing anything I can to make their life a bit easier," said Fredborg.

Kinew owns and manages more than 430 rent-geared-to-income homes for Indigenous families in Winnipeg.

Executive director Lawrence Poirier says evictions are the last thing they want to see, and Fredborg is doing critical work to prevent them, especially when it comes to ensuring tenants submit their Manitoba Housing subsidy forms on time to maintain a rental rate at 30 per cent of their income.

Before hiring Fredborg, Kinew staff would send two letters and make a phone call as a tenant's deadline to submit their subsidyforms approached, and that was it.

"She's taken it a step further," Poirier says of Fredborg, "if she can't contact them by phone she then goes to the house. That's huge."

If a family fails to submit their forms on time they lose their subsidy and are shifted to a market rent rate, which can make the home unaffordable for them.

"Every tenant has a subsidy renewal, and a lot of tenants don't have access to a cell phone, the internet at home (or) a printer, even, so that's where my job comes in. Those forms are so important to keep their house," says Fredborg.

Help with subsidy forms is only part of what she does on behalf of tenants.

During the pandemic a lot of water bills were estimated, Poirier says, sometimes causing overcharges that tenants need help sorting out.

He says before hiring Fredborg, "we just didn't have the resources to go out and get readings and sit on the phone for an hour and sort out somebody's high water bill."

She's also doing important advocacy work for tenants, dealing with government agencies on their behalf, making them aware of benefits they are entitled to and helping them access the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association (MNPHA) Rent Relief Fund if needed—an interest-free loan available to tenants at risk of being evicted. She also provides information about social services and other resources to help people with their life challenges.

"We house families, and they have a hectic life. They're already in low-income housing, so they have a lot going on...having a tenant support worker definitely helps," says Fredborg.

"Whatever I can do to help them, right?"

Kinew has been working to house people for over 50 years, and Poirier has been part of it since 1980. Last year he was awarded the MNPHA Harry Lehotsky Spirit of Leadership Award, which honours persons who have contributed a lasting legacy to the cause of non-profit housing in Manitoba.

"It's always hard to pat your own back," he says of receiving the award, "I think we're doing pretty good with what we do, and I think we've helped a lot of people over the years."

Poirier says Manitoba needs more rent-geared-to-income housing, and Kinew could use more financial help maintaining and upgrading their stock of mostly older homes.

"Even if we didn't introduce more housing, we need to look after what we have

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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