Article written by Kahari Smith-Brewer, Outreach Coordinator
A year and a half ago HousingLink started a program called Beyond Backgrounds. HousingLink is a non-profit organization that operates an award winning website where anyone can search for affordable rental housing vacancies and waiting list openings throughout all of Minnesota. Beyond Backgrounds offers landlords access to up to $2,000 of insurance if there is property damage or liabilities that are not covered by the security deposit. This program exists so both landlords and renters can move beyond the background issues that prevent people from finding stable, safe and affordable housing. And we have been doing just that.
We have worked with the Suburban Metro Area Continuum of Care (SMAC), Dakota County, and Ramsey County’s Outside in Collaborative. Through these partnerships, Beyond Backgrounds has supported landlords in renting to more than 50 people with criminal, credit and rental history barriers in their background! Eighteen of those housed have come from the first quarter of this year alone. This is a testament to how essential this program is for those suffering from homelessness, and how beneficial it can be for landlords and tenants alike.
But don’t just take it from us, take it from some of the landlords and renters who have benefited from this program first hand. K.H., a landlord that rented to a Beyond Backgrounds participant said this “I think it’s important to give people a second chance. The renter had some prior issues with renting (evictions), and she just really seemed like she needed a place to go. I also own a restaurant and often hire those who are thought of as unemployable. Those employees are usually the best workers I have. That was the case with this renter. She completed her lease successfully and left the unit in good condition. She was a good tenant and I would rent to others who are participants in the Beyond Backgrounds program”.
There is also Karen, a landlord in Dakota County who had this to say “The tenant and her daughter were very excited to have a home. Even though her background was a bit suspicious, we felt comfortable renting to her with the extra support.”
The renters also comment on how the program has helped them; "I was having a lot of trouble getting accepted to an apartment because I have bad credit” says I.J., a Beyond Backgrounds participant in Dakota County. I finally found a place that was close to the neighborhood my children were used to so they didn't have to change schools and were near their friends. I didn't meet the qualifications for renting because my income was a little lower than they wanted and my credit score was lower. Thankfully, the landlord was willing to accept the Beyond Backgrounds landlord insurance policy, and my kids and I now have a safe place to live”.
HousingLink is always looking ahead. With its dedication and commitment to supporting renters with criminal, credit and rental history barriers, HousingLink and Metro HRA are proud to announce that they are bringing the Beyond Backgrounds program to families with housing choice vouchers. We also have a new partnership with Ramsey County. Through this effort families on the shelter waitlist are enrolled in Beyond Backgrounds to help with their housing search!
HousingLink is also partnering with the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) in an effort to end veteran homelessness. Many Veterans on the homeless registry will get access to Beyond Backgrounds to help them find housing.
With the continued support of our partners in this effort, HousingLink hopes to improve the living situations of families suffering from housing barriers and homelessness throughout Minnesota.