Gabrielle Ross, also known as Gabby, started with Horning Brothers as a Housing Stability Specialist in Spring of 2021. This is a new position that HB created to help its residents connect with resources that are offered in their community such as rental assistance, employment, and other needs. Since the pandemic, residents have been losing their jobs or their hours have been reduced and are having trouble paying their rent. While there are resources out there, like StayDC, that offer rental assistance to DC residents, many residents weren’t taking advantage of it and were falling more behind in rent each month. HB created the Housing Stability Specialist position to help residents obtain assistance to help them stay housed in the short and long term. Since her tenure, Gabby has helped collect over $2 million dollars in rental assistance for the portfolio. We sat with Gabby to find out more about her role.
Q: Welcome to the HB team! We are so happy to have you. What were your prior experiences that led you to become HB’s Housing Stability Specialist?
I previously worked in homeless services. I have worked with various homeless shelters as a housing specialist, helping with housing, food, employment, and mental health.
Q: Can you tell us more about your role at HB?
My role consists of helping residents connect to community resources like rental assistance, employment, food stamps, case management and mental health assistance. Currently, I am concentrating on rental assistance since that is the urgent need. I have been working with financial assistance programs, like StayDC, to receive funding for rent and utilities for our residents. My goal is to help residents stay afloat during their independent housing journey. I want them to use me as a resource.
Q: These programs have been around since the pandemic started. What do you think prevented people from applying?
Most people were unaware of the programs. If they were, they weren’t comfortable using a computer since the applications are online. You also need an e-mail address. Some residents put it off because they weren’t sure how long the pandemic was going to last and wanted to ride it out. The application process is long, takes a couple of days to complete, and certain documents are needed to show financial hardship.
Q: How did you get the information out to the residents?
I have been emailing, calling and sending out letters to make sure residents are aware of the programs available to them. EmpowerDC has been very helpful in performing outreach by knocking on doors and passing out flyers. I have seen a spike in applications being submitted once we partnered with them.
Q: What is the process and information needed for submitting an application?
First, residents fill out their portion of the application and upload income and financial hardship documents. Upon completion, I will receive an email to complete the landlord portion. From there, it goes into review and once approved, a check will be mailed out.
Q: Can anyone take advantage of the programs?
Yes. There are income limits, but I advise everyone to apply. The great thing about the programs is that it covers rental assistance and utilities for 18 months starting from April 2020.
Q: How have residents reacted to the assistance?
A lot of them have been emotional about it because they were not sure how they were going to pay rent. Since there is no cap on how much help you can receive from the program, residents have been able to clear their past balances and apply for future rent/utilities to prevent future eviction.
It was a pleasure speaking with Gabby and learning more about her important role in keeping our residents housed. We all look forward to Gabby’s continued collaboration between other agencies and resources that offer support that residents in our community might be in need of.