The Mercury News
As the Bay Area continues to struggle under the weight of its homelessness crisis, officials and nonprofits are asking local residents to do more than hand out meals or donate spare change. They’re asking them to open up their homes. Nearly 30,000 people are unhoused in the five-county Bay Area, and there isn’t nearly enough room in the region’s existing affordable housing developments. To fill the gaps, service providers increasingly are recruiting private landlords to take in homeless tenants. Some property owners are renting out entire units in exchange for agreements that the government or a nonprofit will cover the rent. Others are offering up spare bedrooms in their homes – sometimes in exchange for a small stipend, and sometimes as a purely charitable act. But it’s hard to find owners willing to take a chance on someone down on their luck. At least one program recently ended because of a lack of landlord interest.
“This is something that someone can do when they just feel that despair of ‘oh my gosh, I just can’t stand seeing these poor people on the streets near my home,’ ” said Christi Carpenter, executive director of East Bay nonprofit Safe Time, which places unhoused college students and families in spare bedrooms for between one and six months. Since 2017, the group has made more than 60 placements. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt recently partnered with the Rotary Club to match unhoused people with local landlords. The small program will be funded entirely by private donations and landlords will get one year’s rent in advance. The number of people Butt can house depends on donations and volunteer interest, but he already has two more landlords lined up.