What I Learned from My Brief Encounter with Housing Instability

Early this month, I unexpectedly learned that I would need to leave the beautiful, South Minneapolis duplex I’ve rented for three years.

With no explanation or warning, my landlords – who have been the one downside to a home I’ve otherwise loved – decided to change their minds about continuing my lease.

So I found myself unceremoniously dumped into the maelstrom that is the Minneapolis rental market. Moving under the best circumstances is stressful, but moving with a hard deadline under duress and without any idea where you’re going next ratchets anxiety levels to a new dimension.

After an initial 48 hours of panic, I got serious about finding a new place. I was in for a shock. If you’ve heard that the housing market is tough you’ve heard right. It’s alarming how much rent has increased since I was last on the hunt. I took to scouring craigslist every few hours because if a good place at a good price is posted for more than a day, odds are also good that it’s already gone.

Finding a place, however, is only the beginning.

You also have to pass the landlord’s application process. Frequently, this includes criminal background and credit checks, proof of income three times the monthly rent, a driver’s license, a social security number, references, and clean rental history. Additionally, you have to be able to afford moving costs like a nonrefundable application fee, a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and a rental truck or movers.

Fortunately, only two weeks passed from the day I found out I needed to move to the day I signed a new lease. During those two weeks, however, my housing search filled my waking (and to be honest, some of my sleeping) hours. It consumed mental and emotional energy that I wanted to spend on other areas of my life.

I say all of this not to complain or win sympathy or claim that I understand how it feels to be homeless or consistently housing insecure. On the contrary, this experience directed a spotlight on my incredibly privileged position. Despite the anxiety, I always knew that I would ultimately find somewhere to land. I knew I could pass every test a landlord threw my way. I could accept a place with fewer perks or forego some disposable income to pay higher rent (though I didn’t end up having to do either). I could also rely on an extensive network of family and friends.

But what about someone who doesn’t enjoy these privileges?

What about someone with limited mental or physical health or high barriers – criminal convictions, addiction, poor credit, low or unstable income, previous eviction, or just no rental history? None of these circumstances mean a human being deserves to be homeless. Yet, often, they make finding housing literally impossible.

Of course, working at Our Saviour’s Community Services, I already knew many of these things. But sometimes, a little perspective helps us see in a new way. I’m astonished by the resilience so many men and women demonstrate against relentless odds. I’m also more appreciative than ever that places like Our Saviour’s Housing exist. They fill a gap in the system, providing a sorely needed pathway to home that otherwise simply wouldn’t exist.