Teaming up with the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) made it easier for landlord Debbie Clark to do something she is passionate about – provide rental housing to help families experiencing homelessness get off the streets and back on their feet.

SDHC’s Landlord Engagement & Assistance Program (LEAP), an initiative of SDHC’s HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO homelessness action plan, provides Clark with incentives and support to rent to San Diegans experiencing homelessness.

“It’s absolutely great business sense. It covers deposits, it covers partial rents, and it covers the damages,” Clark said.

Clark became a landlord in 2012, living in one unit at a property she purchased and renting out other units to families without homes. She said that handling foreclosures during 25 years in the mortgage banking industry and volunteering for a church’s homelessness outreach efforts for nearly 17 years made her want to do more to help San Diegans experiencing homelessness.

“I see the homeless problem firsthand, and I do it because I want to help them. I don’t do it for the money, I do it for the satisfaction of helping someone get on their feet, especially if it’s a family situation. I just can’t see it. It tears me up,” Clark said.

Clark said she made her units available for the LEAP program because of the prompt assistance she received from SDHC housing specialists.

“Customer service is way over and above. They are on top of things. I get callbacks or emails – some type of contact within 24 hours. So, I mean, I appreciate that, because my schedule is probably just as busy as theirs. That attention means to me that they’re on the job,” she said.

Other LEAP incentives, including the contingency fund that helps landlords cover expenses after a tenant moves out, such as repairs that exceed security deposits, are important for landlords, Clark said.

“They take financial responsibility to help the landlords,” Clark said.

Clark has already notified LEAP program staff about another property she’s rehabilitating that will soon be available in the Encanto neighborhood to provide rental homes for San Diegans experiencing homelessness – a two-level, three-unit complex atop a sloping hillside with a nearly panoramic view of the City of San Diego.

“The residents here, I hope, will appreciate the property, get them on their feet, make them feel better about themselves and advance in society. If they want to stay, they can stay. If they get a one-year lease and they want to move after that, you know, I hope they move to bigger and better things,” Clark said.

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