April 9, 2021
Home. It’s a word that means different things to different people. Safety. Security. Stability. Comfort. A home is more than just four walls and a roof. It’s the place where we start and end our days. Where we prepare our meals and celebrate holidays. Where we make memories.
The staff who work in The IC’s Housing Department understand the positive impact having a home can have on one’s life. By assisting individuals in finding a place to live, they help unlock the door to a brighter future.
The Housing team is made up of four dedicated Housing Coordinators – Sara Callender, Nicole Faucher, Daveda Eisenstein, and Grant Langdon. Recently, we sat down with Sara and Nicole to find out more about what they do and how they help others achieve greater independence through housing.
What is the role of a Housing Coordinator at The IC?
Sara Callender (SC): People often think we’re case managers but we’re not. As Housing Coordinators, we typically coordinate with other agencies and partners. These agencies work directly with individuals to help them fill out an application to get housing vouchers. Once they’ve been determined to be eligible for a voucher, they come to us and we help them through the process of finding a place to live.
Nicole Faucher (NF): We also field many calls from people coming to Colorado Springs. They don’t have vouchers but we are able to share our resources and other information that can help them find housing.
What should someone with a housing voucher expect when they reach out to The IC?
SC: First, we meet with them to do a briefing and to do all the necessary paperwork to accept the voucher. Then, we give them the voucher, along with housing resources to help them look for a home. Once they find a home, we’ll work with the landlord to determine that it’s within the payment standard of the voucher.
Before the pandemic, we would go out and do an inspection because it has to pass certain requirements from the State. Right now, we’re asking individuals to complete and return paperwork that they have inspected the unit. Then they sign the lease and move in!
Once a year, we meet with them to determine that they are still eligible for their voucher. During that year, we remind them that if their income changes, they need to let us know because their rent amount is determined by their income.
So The IC doesn’t find a place for them?
SC: That’s one of the biggest misconceptions. We don’t do it for you. We give you the tools to find a place to live. You get to pick where you want to live, as long as it falls within the payment standard.
What if someone needs a place that’s outside the payment standard?
NF: People with disabilities can request a reasonable accommodation for a higher payment standard so they can live where they want to live and how they want to live. If they want to do that, we educate and support them and help them present a reasonable accommodation request to the State for review. Sometimes it gets bounced back and we tweak it a bit. But more often than not, reasonable accommodations are approved.
Sometimes it’s about time rather than money. Vouchers are time-sensitive. They get 120 days to find a place and then the vouchers expire. So if they get close to the 120 days and they haven’t found anything, they need to do a reasonable accommodation to ask for more time.
Can anyone work with The IC’s Housing program or do you just work with people with disabilities?
SC: The majority of our voucher holders have a disability. But we do work with some people who don’t have a disability, or someone in their family might have a disability but they might not be the head of household.
The IC’s Housing Department operates on the “housing first” philosophy. Tell us a little about that.
NF: “Housing first” means that once you have a home and all that goes with that – heat, water, a bed – you can then move forward and really improve your life. You can get a job now because you’ve slept well, you can take a shower, you have a refrigerator to put your food in. You can just really begin to enjoy your life no matter what happened prior to that. It’s such a big part of becoming independent.
Housing is a win-win. It’s a win for families and individuals, obviously. But it’s a win for the community, too, to have people in homes.
What is your favorite part of your job?
NF: Being part of the process of helping someone find a home makes me so happy. I am always so excited to share information with people. I feel like we empower them and it’s so inspiring.
SC: Back in the good old days before COVID, I loved to sit with people and do a briefing in person. I would just ask them to talk about themselves and ask them about their hopes and dreams. To introduce them to the program and let them know that they’re going to pick their own home, cook their own meals, and sleep in their own bed – it’s pretty exciting.
If you are looking for housing resources in the area, call 719-471-8181 to speak to someone in The IC’s Housing Department.