Supporting Immigrant Tenants
Our Share the Plate recipient for January, 2018 is Supporting Immigrant Tenants.
Supporting Immigrant Tenants (SIT) is a program of Community Financial Literacy (CFL), a nonprofit charitable organization with IRS 501(c)(3) status. Its mission is to reach out to newly arrived immigrants in the greater Portland area to offer hospitality that addresses the immediate need of safe shelter. CLF/SIT has created a no-interest revolving loan fund for security deposits in partnership with Infinity Credit Union: Infinity will manage the loan much like a student loan that does not have to be repaid before income is available.
Although General Assistance in Maine pays rent within a financial limit, asylum seekers must find the security deposit by themselves; this usually entails begging from friends and faith communities. Refugees who have federal help often also find themselves in difficulty if their first housing, paid by their federal stipend, turns out to be too expensive or otherwise problematic.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work when they arrive. They can have no earned income until they obtain a work permit which can only be applied for 5 months after they have filed an asylum application; it takes another couple of months for the permit to arrive.
SIT has put together a structure which includes interviews for the preapproval of a loan; volunteer housing coaches to help with the recording of move-in /move-out apartment conditions and housing practices; required attendance of tenants at educational presentations on tenant and landlord rights, with particular emphasis on tenant responsibilities and best practices.
When coming to a new country and culture, it is hard to overcome the stress and trauma to concentrate on other tasks if there is no home base into which to settle and feel safe. They simply need a little help to start out.
SIT will also work to actively help immigrants find housing through working with responsible landlords and advocate for hygienic, well maintained, affordable housing stock.
FMI please contact Sue Rudalevige.