By Theresa Walker / Orange County Register
By getting property owners and others to accept renters with vouchers, a project with the United Way, Welcome Home OC, is off to a strong start.
In the world of those who want to end homelessness, the word of the moment is “collaboration.”
Of course, it’s one thing to talk about collaboration. It’s another to do it.
David Cordero, executive director of the Apartment Association of Orange County, manages to do both.
In September, Cordero brought his association — which represents about 2,900 rental-property owners, property managers and suppliers — into a partnership with Orange County United Way’s Welcome Home OC homeless initiative. Renting to people struggling with homelessness — in a market where less risky tenants aren’t hard to find — hasn’t always been an easy sell in Cordero’s world.
But now the Apartment Association and Welcome Home OC are working together to convince local landlords and property managers that they should rent units to homeless people who are using government vouchers to help pay for a place to live. Cordero’s group and United Way are providing workshops and other outreach to ease concerns about potential tenants and about the challenges in handling vouchers.
Collaboration with the Apartment Association is crucial to Welcome Home OC’s success: Members own or operate some 85,000 rental units, from small apartment buildings to sprawling complexes, throughout Orange County.
And, according to people connected with the program, Cordero’s work in educating his members and encouraging them to participate has been crucial to the project’s early success.
“He has been a force all throughout the year in terms of getting us where are today,” said Sue Parks, president and chief executive officer of Orange County United Way.
Perception and reality
Welcome Home OC officially launched in March, but United Way had been testing the waters with a pilot program since late 2018. The initial goal was to get 100 people into some kind of permanent home by the end of 2019.
As of early this week, the project has housed 110 formerly homeless people — individuals and families — whose rents are being subsidized with federally-issued vouchers from programs such as Section 8 and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing. And more than half of those tenants — 57 — are renting units made available by members of the Apartment Association.