Give people a chance, say landlords housing vulnerable clients in Whitehorse

·3 min read
Two landlords in Whitehorse say there's no risk in giving vulnerable clients a chance as tenants. A program called Landlords Working to End Homelessness has been looking for space for clients who otherwise would have a hard time finding housing. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)
Two landlords in Whitehorse say there's no risk in giving vulnerable clients a chance as tenants. A program called Landlords Working to End Homelessness has been looking for space for clients who otherwise would have a hard time finding housing. (Philippe Morin/CBC - image credit)

Two landlords in Whitehorse say they highly recommend a program which gives vulnerable clients a better chance at finding housing.

Landlords Working to End Homelessness (LWEH), has been struggling to find space as demand grows for housing in Whitehorse.

Many listings for rentals seek "professional" or "working" renters only. This can exclude people who face barriers such as cognitive impairment, disabilities, illness and a lack of employment or a current residence for any reason.

The LWEH program sets a non-profit organization as an intermediary between landlord and tenant. The NGO becomes accountable for paying rent, takes responsibility to repair any damage and helps mitigate any conflict. The goal is to help vulnerable people overcome barriers and find somewhere to live.

'So many applicants'

Mike Toews owns a three-bedroom house in downtown Whitehorse and rented it out privately for 12 years before joining the LWEH program. The change happened in 2018, as tenants moved out and he was overwhelmed with demand.

He chose to rent to a father and his two sons, on the recommendation of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society Yukon (FASSY).

"I would say at least 50 different people inquired. One applicant was the organization FASSY and I really believe in what they're trying to do," he said. "I thought I would take a chance."

Three years later, Toews has no regrets. The organization pays the rent on time and checks in with occupants to provide support.

"No major conflicts for me. It's been great," he said.

Demand for housing in Whitehorse is growing, making it hard for many people to find what they need.
Demand for housing in Whitehorse is growing, making it hard for many people to find what they need.(Jackie McKay/CBC)

Toews even said he prefers the arrangement to a one-on-one rental.

"I have had previous relationships with tenants where, when you have a conflict it unfortunately sometimes gets personal. This way it's a very formal agreement and I find it makes things very smooth," he said.

Sharing a home

In the Whitehorse neighbourhood of Porter Creek, Aaron Bielz and common-law partner Rachel Pollet share their home with a tenant.

They have a legal suite in their single-level rancher home.

"We purchased this property and inherited the tenant! We were fine with it, he had been a longstanding tenant with the previous owner and we decided to go with it," Bielz said.

The tenant is an elderly man who Bielz describes as quiet, polite and an overall ideal tenant. He is a client of Blood Ties Four Directions, an NGO in Whitehorse.

Bielz says he doesn't know why the man needs support. He has not asked.

"That's his own personal information, I don't know his history or background or why he's receiving support. It's never come up in conversation. I know he needs help and it's none of my business," he said.

Bielz hopes Whitehorse landlords will consider NGOs' applications and consider giving more people a chance.

"It's been a very comfortable arrangement. They [Blood Ties] have acted as a middle man on several little things but nothing major," he said.

"I know the need for housing for Whitehorse is a growing concern, but also for social housing, for people who have a lower socioeconomic status. You look at the cost of living, it's creeping up so it really makes it a tricky situation."

'I am constantly on the lookout'

FASSY currently has seven clients housed through the program working with three landlords in Whitehorse.

But there's far more demand than supply.

John Mimee of FASSY said according to a list shared between various NGOs, at least 50 people would be looking for housing through this program.

Another group that participates in LWEH, the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, is currently working with four landlords, to house three clients with families and three single persons.

"I am constantly on the lookout for any landlord who would be willing to work with me," said Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre's housing navigator Elena Ross.

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