OUR POSITION: We like the outside-the-box thinking by Gulf Coast Partnership in tackling the problem of affordable housing for people who need it the most in Charlotte County.

The Gulf Coast Partnership has a plan to get a roof over the heads of those impacted the most by Southwest Florida’s high rents.

To make the plan work, they are looking for an individual with certain skills. Skills such as, the ability to convince others to give up a little profit to help those less fortunate; a relationship with area landlords; a good mind for economics and, maybe most of all, compassion.

Angela Hogan, CEO of Gulf Coast Partnership, said Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Charlotte County Community Foundation are teaming up to finance a $32,000 annual salary for a person to spearhead the new program. The goal is to establish a community-wide landlord engagement strategy to seek housing for women and men suffering from homelessness.

Whoever gets the job will be charged with building a relationship with area landlords to convince them to offer units at prices single moms, those with medical issues and the elderly can afford.

“We’ve been working with homelessness for years but finding landlords who can lower their rent to make units affordable (is a challenge),” Hogan said. “The program would serve really anyone in need of housing.”

Hogan explained the person who is hired to head up the program would work to make a list of units available based on need. For instance, a one-bedroom for a person who has medical needs. Maybe a two or three bedroom for a family. Or, a two-bedroom for a single mom.

“Right now, there is no one out there approaching landlords to ask for their help,” Hogan said. “Maybe someone has 50 rental units and they might be willing to offer us two that people can afford if we guarantee the rent will be paid.”

Hogan said there are more than a couple of federal and state programs that Gulf Coast Partnership can use to funnel money to renters.

“Right now, on any given day we have 140 households in Charlotte County with no home to go to,” she said. “They are either homeless or sleeping on someone’s couch. Some have medical needs. For example, we have two men who are staying in the hospital because they have to be on oxygen and have no place to go.”

The help Hogan and the foundations are looking for is not really charity. They just need landlords to offer housing that someone working one job can afford. For instance, she said, a one-bedroom unit that could rent for about $680.

“Right now, we can’t find one for $700,” she said. “And, we are not allowed to put someone in a unit that rents for more than the amount approved even if they would pay the difference because it would not be sustainable.”

It’s a worthy endeavor and a new idea we hope can work.

“We have to have faith if this program works in Los Angeles and San Francisco (which it does) then it should work here,” Hogan said.

Interviews for the “landlord whisperer” position are ongoing. If you’ve got the knack for persuasion, Gulf Coast Partnership wants to talk to you.

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