When Antonio Puryear lost his job in Washington, D.C. (and then, shortly thereafter, his apartment), he and his two daughters were temporarily forced to move from couch to couch. “We moved in with my dad, just trying to find a way,” he says.
In the same situation, many people eventually end up living in a shelter. But Puryear became part of a program that offered an unusual route to simultaneously get new housing and a new job, working at a large apartment complex.
It’s common for apartment complexes to offer discounted rent, or free rent, to property managers and other staff. In 2014, Chris Finlay, managing partner of Middleburg Real Estate Partners, a D.C.-area real estate company, saw an opportunity to connect these jobs with people who were struggling with homelessness. Finlay had read an article about the number of people who are homeless because of job loss or other temporary circumstances. He realized that his preconceptions about homelessness, shaped by the chronically homeless people he saw living outside, were wrong.
“The majority of homeless are people that we never really see because they are trying to work, they’re getting day labor,” he says. “They’re living out of their cars. They’re not panhandling and living under the bridge . . . These are all people that were employed, had good job histories. There was just really no issue that would preclude them from working other than they didn’t have an address.”