We are excited to share another story of how RentSmart is making an impact in different communities across Canada. If you’d like to share your story on how RentSmart is helping the communities you serve, please contact Aygul (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This time, we’d like to give a shout-out to the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society (SOSBIS) who has partnered with a number of organizations in Penticton, BC to adopt a community-wide approach to ensure housing stability for the different people they serve.
It all started when a group of community leaders gathered together to form the 100 Homes Penticton Committee in order to address homelessness and provide housing and supports to vulnerable people. One of the goals identified by the Committee was to have a group of trained RentSmart Educators that would regularly deliver tenant and landlord education for successful tenancies in community.
As a result of that initiative, RentSmart certificate courses are being run on a regular basis by a group of Educators representing various organizations in Penticton that work with women, homeless men, youth and individuals that are dealing with addictions or mental health issues. This model ensures efficient use of time and resources: course referrals from several organizations mean that seats are being filled up, and rotation of educators reduces pressure on individual organizations while making the course more interesting for participants. Funding from Community Foundations (Penticton) covers the cost of participant manuals, materials and refreshments so that the course is offered free of charge to participants eliminating affordability barriers.
In order to set tenants up for success, landlords are being regularly invited as guest speakers during RentSmart courses – an initiative that is enthusiastically welcomed by participants as they have a chance to make connections with potential landlords and hear first-hand information on what landlords need and why. Representatives from Penticton City (Bylaws) and Penticton Fire Department also frequently participate in the courses to support and expand the content for participants, while the British Columbia Automobile Association provide information and resources regarding tenant insurance. The overwhelming response from graduates is that this training provides them with valuable information and new connections to be able to succeed in their tenancies. Some graduates were able to secure housing after taking the course.
To go even further in ensuring successful tenancies and positive dynamics between tenants and landlords, SOSBIS has also recently piloted a RentSmart Landlord session for the landlords of an apartment building in Penticton. This session covered strategies for successful tenancies; knowledge and capacity in housing tenants who may be experiencing life transitions; as well as tools and skills for effective communication. Landlords were also very keen to share their perspective on what tenants need to know and agreed to accept tenants that have gone through RentSmart education.
As part of further community-wide expansion, RentSmart education will also be provided to young adults at the Foundry – a wellness centre where young people can find hope, help and support – when it opens later this spring.
It warms our heart to know that RentSmart is supporting people in Penticton, one graduate at a time, to find the right home and to be able to keep it, and avoid or exit the cycle of homelessness.
Special thanks to the organizations and facilitators involved:
South Okanagan & Similkameen Brain Injury Society – Linda Sankey, Lindsay Moore, Crystal Kruger, Opal Blackhall
Pathways Addictions Resource Centre – Mike Mai
ASK Wellness – Kenneth Scott
Penticton Recovery Resource Society – Jerome Abraham