DC Mayor Working With Landlords to Help Homeless Families

A fund would guarantee that landlords get paid. In exchange, landlords would lower restrictions on who can qualify for a lease

An emotional plea from a homeless family to landlords in the District asks owners to make it easier for families without homes to rent apartments.

Melinda and Ezra Bryant lost everything when a fire destroyed their home. They are living in a shelter with their two young daughters.

They recently stood shoulder to shoulder with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, asking landlords and other business owners in the city to contribute to a fund that will help them qualify for a lease.

Ezra Bryant has never turned his back on his family or his country. He served as a Marine and works two jobs, so his wife can finish college and he can provide for their daughters.

After a fire destroyed their home, they were unable to qualify for a new lease.

"You go into an apartment, fill out application and get denied because of credit, or you don’t make enough money," Ezra Bryant said.

"It’s been a struggle with both work and trying to find a place, so it’s hard," Melinda Harris-Bryant said.

Bowser said the Bryants' plight is not unique. Many families live in shelters because they have bad credit or don’t make enough money to qualify for leases, she said.

Bowser is starting the Landlord Partnership Fund. She gathered dozens of landlords at D.C.'s city hall and asked them to contribute to a fund that would guarantee that landlords get paid if a family is not able to pay rent. In exchange, landlords would lower the restrictions on qualifying for a lease.

It was the Bryants who stood before those landlords and told them their story and asked them to participate in the program.

"We’re hoping to make a new start," Ezra Bryant said. "It’s not easy. We need help."

Bowser is hoping to raise $500,000 in tax-deductible contributions from the private sector to pay for the new program. Meanwhile, the Bryants will keep working and keep hoping they will get the break they so desperately need.

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