Good Samaritan Ministries’ Housing Search Initiative, put on during Homeless Awareness Month 2020, will help people struggling to find housing in Ottawa County for years to come. 

Good Samaritan Ministries, the Housing Assistance and Resource Agency (HARA) for Ottawa County, met new landlords and property managers for months as part of the eviction diversion program that aimed to provide additional support for individuals and families facing eviction during the pandemic. A case manager compiled a list of contact information for local landlords, which was passed on to the small team of volunteers tasked with reaching out and gathering their information. 

In preparation for the initiative, Good Samaritan Ministries wrote a questionnaire for landlords to gather basic information and guide the interview. Questions sought information like the availability of units, price of units and utilities, unit size and location, and income requirements. Additionally, volunteers were given a brief training session on how to conduct the calls. 

“It was a pretty easy initiative to put in place,” said Dillene Van Beek, Director of Engagement and Strategic Initiatives for Good Samaritan Ministries. “We were pretty satisfied and happy with the results that we got.”

The project was a definitive success; volunteers called about 80 landlords and were able to connect with 50. Of those 50, 34 were willing to answer questions from volunteers and agreed to allow a Good Samaritan Housing Staff member to follow up with them regarding their units in the future. 

“Even if all you do is make contact with a landlord, that gives you a bridge that you haven’t had before,” Van Beek said. 

The connections built through the Housing Search Initiative have been crucial and are predicted to have lasting benefits for Good Samaritan Ministries and their clients. Van Beek said they found housing for some clients during the initiative and Good Samaritan Ministries still receives follow-up calls from contacted landlords as additional units become available.