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Apartment residents forced to move out after rent assistance company runs dry

HOUSTON – Roughly a dozen residents of an apartment complex in northwest Harris County are scrambling to find new housing, after being told by the property's owner their leases would not be renewed.

"I was, like, 'Whoa,'" said Robert Butler, a resident of Champions Creek Apartments, located on the 13600 block of Walters Road.

"We're all thinking we are going to be here for the year and we'll be able to renew our lease," Butler said.

Butler, a single father of five, told KPRC2 he moved into the apartment complex last summer after living in a homeless shelter for a period. He said he was able to do so through a program called The Way Home: Rapid Re-Housing. According to its website, the program helps homeless families find housing. It also helps pay rent, according to tenants at Champions Creek Apartments.

"It took us a long time to get into these apartments," said Monique Reed, another resident who was given a letter that states her lease is not being renewed and she has until May 31 to vacate the apartment.

Like Butler, Reed moved to Champions Creek from a homeless shelter. Her apartment there, Reed said, means stability for her son, Jerimiah, who has autism.

"I lost my job, so me and my son went homeless. So, we went to the Star of Hope," Reed said.

According to tenants, letters were sent to 15 tenants, all of whom received an apartment at the complex through the Rapid Re-Housing Program. Thus far, tenants affected have told KPRC2 no one has told them why they are being asked to leave.

KPRC2 spoke to the owner of Champions Creek Apartments, AJ Siddiqui, off camera. He said he did not want to issue the letters and does not want to see anyone return to homelessness, but he has no other choice.

Siddiqui said Rapid Re-Housing contacted him, saying it no longer has the funds to assist with rental costs for those of his tenants who are enrolled in the program.

In the meantime, the affected residents said the clock continues to tick, and they are without answers as to what can be done.

"I don't want to go back to the shelter," Reed said.

Butler, who works as a barber, said he is trying to map out a plan for him and his children. He only wishes lines of communication were open.

"I'm kind of anxious. Most of the families that were moved over were kinda going through a lot of hardships so, there's a program that helped all of us get over here," Butler said.

UPDATE:

KPRC2 spoke with a spokesperson from Rapid Re-Housing. The organization confirms both Monique Reed and Robert Butler are enrolled in their program. Furthermore, the organization said it did not notify management of Champions Creek that it had run out of money to continue their relationship. The organization added that while it cannot force landlords to continue to participate in the program, the families affected by the landlord's decision not to renew their leasing agreement remain assigned to case workers, who are working to find new housing.

The program adds it has been successful in the Houston area, helping formerly homeless families get back on their feet. Part of their challenge, they add, is finding landlords who are willing to participate. If you would like to learn more, or help contribute, click here.

KPRC2 will continue to track the progress of the tenants who have been affected by the lease non-renewal.

Here's a full statement from Eva Thibaudeau, Director of Programs, Coalition for the Homeless, which is the lead agency for The Way Home:

"Houston is leading the nation in solving homelessness through our collaborative of more than 100 partners known as The Way Home. Since 2012 The Way Home has permanently housed more than 8,000 individuals, including more than 5,000 veterans with 90% remaining housed today.

"The Way Home's Rapid Re-housing Program (RRH), which began in 2015, provides short-term rental assistance coupled with intensive case management to homeless families in crisis, enabling them to stabilize and get back on their feet in their own home. Specially trained case managers support families to make sure they are connected to the essential resources available in our community and receive life-skills education to ensure long-term housing stability.

"The standard property owner/landlord lease agreement is strictly between the resident and the landlord. Landlords receive rent payments from both the resident and The Way Home; the amount that each party is responsible for is based on each resident's unique needs and is communicated to the landlord each month. Residents eventually grow the portion of the rent they are responsible for until they are paying 100% of their monthly rent on their own. Nationally, Rapid Re-housing has a more than 80% success rate.

"While we can't disclose private information, we can advise that both individuals referenced in KPRC's story are still in the Rapid Re-housing Program and remain connected with their case managers. Further, the property owner was regularly updated by The Way Home's case management team that Rapid Re-housing support for these households was in place. The property owner's decision to not renew leases is unrelated to the Rapid Re-housing Program. The families currently living on the property with Rapid Re-housing support are working with their case managers to find new housing through The Way Home.

"The dedicated partners of The Way Home will continue to focus on providing homeless individuals with permanent housing and supportive services as the solution to homelessness in our community. We need and welcome funding support from members of the community to help our most vulnerable neighbors. We encourage Houstonians to get involved in the work to solve homelessness by visiting www.thewayhomehouston.org to donate to The Welcome Home Fund, or to find a list of partner organizations to support.”