Transition program seeks housing coordinator

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WALLA WALLA — STAR Project is looking for just the right person. The agency — Successful Transition and Recovery — serves clients who have been recently released from incarceration. Finding housing is one of the biggest tasks.

And hardest, noted Executive Director Glenna Awbrey.

The issue is two-fold, at least, she explained — most STAR clients are required by law to be in Walla Walla County after being released and while on probation. But landlords, especially in an area of very low vacancy rates, are wary of renting to convicted felons.

But those newly on the other side of prison bars have to live somewhere, Awbrey said. “So for us to not have housing for them puts everyone at risk.”

It is her hope that a volunteer — the nonprofit organization’s funding can’t stretch to offer another paying position — can step forward to become a liaison between offenders and the county’s landlords.

Such a person will meet face-to-face with property owners and management companies to explain the process STAR uses to integrate ex-convicts, plus the incentives offered for being good tenants. “We’re hoping to find someone to interact with landlords and bridge the barriers our clients face.”

For some of the clients, having their own lease to understand and obey is a new experience, Awbrey explained. “It’s simple things, like knowing you didn’t have a huge party. But the person staying with you did, and it’s your responsibility to clean it up. They just don’t understand these things a lot of the time.”

A STAR Project housing coordinator will be the person to assure the landlord accountability is in place, along with repairs, cleaning power and rent money, should the landlord be left holding the bag, Awbrey said. “An assurance they won’t be left high and dry.”

And if the planets align even more perfectly, there is potential that a housing coordinator can develop a program for classes on how to be a good tenant, the she added. That would allow for standardizing the process of getting clients into housing and putting safeguards such as random drug testing in place to ensure compliance with housing and STAR rules.

For more information call Awbrey at 525-3612.

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