Anna’s story is told here by a Multnomah Rental Assistance Program (MRAP) staff member. MRAP provides supportive housing services to those at risk of or experiencing houselessness. The team provides barrier identification and reduction, person-first housing plans, support in the housing process, and measures to aid in retention of housing while supporting participants in their recovery goals.
Anna was the first referral for MRAP, one of New Narrative’s newest programs. Anna was eager to work with us—MRAP offered the opportunity to get out of a shelter and into her own place for the first time in her life. After a smooth start and great synergy, we got to a standard part of the process: running the background check so that we could see what potential landlords would see before they see it. We saw some prior offenses (including felonies and misdemeanors) but nothing overly concerning, as they were beyond the timeframe that a landlord could consider.
When the application was submitted, Anna was surprisingly denied. It turns out she had open and unresolved felonies from across the country from a former chapter of her life. After further conversation with Anna, we learned she had previously been lured into a traveling group who stole individuals’ identities and money from their bank accounts. By the time Anna had realized what she had gotten into, it was too late to get out. She had already seen someone else want out, only to get kicked out of a van on the side of the highway, with nothing but their clothes on their back. Anna didn’t want to be next, so she kept doing what she needed to do to have the basics—food and a safe place to sleep.
Fast forward to the application: Anna’s unresolved felonies from a decade ago were preventing her from moving on with her life. As you can imagine, Anna was at a very low point at this time and feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. That’s when the knowledge and compassion that our housing navigators jobs requires really kicked in. We started putting the pieces in place to do everything we could to get Anna into her dream home. With my (sometimes obnoxious) optimism and a coworker’s willingness to share her own story of how she “has been there and done that,” we were able to keep Anna above water, and to keep that glimmer of hope shining. We would always tell her we weren’t going to quit on her, and we weren’t going to let her quit on us.
A New Path Forward
Anna wrote a moving—and transparent—letter putting a human story to the otherwise sterile charges on the background check. To increase relationship-building and strengthen the human element of this process, we went to a leasing agent that we had a good relationship with. We brought Anna to give her the chance to tell them her story. After hearing Anna’s side of the story, the leasing agent was as far from discouraging as possible. We toured the apartment and heard the words, “You’re approved.” It was an overwhelmingly emotional moment for all of us. The end of the tunnel had been reached, Anna moved in, and the next phase of her life began. This process took several months, but we are happy to report that Anna has spent the first of many nights in her new place.
New Narrative bears witness to stories like Anna’s every day. Learn more about our residential services on our Housing Page.