By Gina Cappuccitti, HousingLink Coordinator
Survivors seeking services through HousingLink often come to their first meeting having already faced a range of barriers in their apartment search, particularly relating to credit. Because a credit check is performed by landlords prior to approving a tenant, we start this conversation early. This way, clients can take the necessary steps to improve their likelihood of securing an apartment and also prepare for living on their own. While the first goal is to help survivors of domestic violence secure housing, our conversations are framed to also plan for long-term financial stability.
The challenges that one client, Rachel, shared with me when we first met illustrate the progress we can make together. A domestic violence survivor and mother of three children, Rachel had been living in a Tier II transitional housing shelter for five months when she was referred to HousingLink by her Family Justice Center case manager. Although Rachel works part-time, she still qualified for rental assistance through CityFHEPS. Early in our meeting she mentioned that she had a defaulted loan on her credit report, but didn’t expect that it could impact housing since she has a housing voucher.
I walked Rachel through the affordable housing marketing guidelines and explained to her what would be required to successfully apply for affordable housing apartments. We then completed a Housing Action Plan which includes negotiating with creditors. In preparation for what is oftentimes a very challenging conversation, I coached her through common negotiation scenarios and she left with steps to take ahead of our next meeting.
Rachel didn’t waste a minute, calling the lender right after leaving my office. The lender offered to settle the account for a one-time payment of 30% of the remaining balance. Rachel was persistent and succeeded in bringing down the settlement to $1,600, accounting for less than 20% of the balance. She then reached out to a family member, who agreed to help her out with the payment.
The following week, Rachel and I reviewed her credit report, which also included a collections notice for an old insurance bill. Buoyed by her previous negotiation success, Rachel confidently planned her next steps to settle this outstanding bill. Once we connect Rachel to an apartment, we will revisit her Housing Action Plan to incorporate next steps to rebuilding her credit, adjust her budget to account for new financial obligations that come with renting an apartment, and connect her with additional resources that align with her personal goals.