As anyone who has been convicted of a felony can attest to, finding a job and a place to live can be a real struggle. Many employers and landlords see a criminal conviction on an applicant’s record and immediately turn that person away. It’s not only sex offenders or those convicted of violent crimes that have this problem; a marijuana possession conviction or a felony shoplifting conviction can lead to the same rejection.
Now, Les Boynton of Second Chance Rentals is offering Phoenix and Tucson residents who have been convicted of a crime a place to live. “Our society is very judgmental of people with credit or criminal problems. They think they’re all high-risk, but 90 to 95 percent of them are good-hearted, working-class people,” he says. He calls his apartments the “safety net of homelessness.” Boynton allows felons and evictees, but does not allow violent offenders, sex offenders, chronic drug dealers, or people who are constantly in and out of jail.
Part of the 12 month program involves twice-monthly apartment inspections. The program is called Step-by-Step Transitional Living, and also provides tenants with services including access to social services, continuing education, budgeting help, obtaining a vehicle, and more. There is a fee for this- typically between $80-$100 per month. Once the tenants have completed 12 months in the apartment with no issues, tenants can then rent directly from the apartment, and no longer have to pay the monthly fee. In addition to the program, tenants are not immediately disciplined for late rent payments. As long as the tenants set up payment arrangements and stay in contact with the landlord, they have as long as 30 days to get their rent payment in. Boynton specifically wanted this arrangement to discourage the need for tenants to use payday or title loans, and to allow for financial disruptions such as car repairs or medical bills.
It is refreshing to learn about someone like Boynton who see people for who they are and who they are trying to become, rather than outright judging them based on their criminal past. Second Chance Rentals has become very successful, and will likely see much expansion in the future.
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